Fowler, having just spoken with Heng and Chou, thinks about Pyle—he hasn’t seen him since Pyle saved his life. He’s irritated with himself for being so grateful to Pyle—life would be so much easier, he thinks, if he didn’t have a conscience.
Fowler wishes he were totally nihilistic, but he still has obligations to and affection for other people: both a blessing and a curse.
One night, while Fowler is sleeping, he awakes to hear a knocking at his door. It is Pyle, trying to get inside. Fowler tries to ignore Pyle, but ultimately he gets up and opens the door. There, he finds Pyle standing with Phuong. Pyle accuses Fowler of lying to Phuong: Phuong’s sister, who can read English, has learned that Fowler is planning to return to England. Fowler cheerfully admits his deception—it’s precisely this kind of lie, he explains, that Europeans must perfect in order to defeat their younger, stronger American enemies.
Again Fowler tries, almost successfully, to be totally nihilistic. He seems to be taking a keen pleasure in lying to Pyle, and seeing the effects of his lie on the man’s idealism. It’s interesting that Greene uses this opportunity to capture the symbolism of Pyle and Fowler’s relationship. If Pyle is America and Fowler is England, then England has won this round: England may be weaker and slower than America, but it’s smarter.
Pyle tearfully accuses Fowler of manipulating him, along with Phuong, for his own selfish needs. Fowler doesn’t deny any of this. Pyle says that Fowler was only using Phuong for sex, but Fowler takes issue with this, arguing that Phuong is old enough to make up her own mind what she wants. Pyle claims that he can offer Phuong far more than Fowler ever could: wealth, security, affection, etc. Fowler dismissively tells Pyle to go to his “Third Force and York Harding and plastics.” Looking back, Fowler thinks, Pyle carried out these instructions “to the letter.”
Neither Pyle nor Fowler is a saint when it comes to women, but at the very least, Fowler respects Phuong enough to allow her to make up her own mind—Pyle, by contrast, thinks of Phuong with toal condescension. This explains why Pyle could believe that he’s in love with Phuong after so short a time—he’s not interested in Phuong’s inner life, so he can “size her up” at first sight.