When his plane lands, Fowler spends the evening with Captain Trouin, an important officer of the Gascogne Squadron. As they drink and gamble together, Fowler asks Trouin if the areas the squadron bombed that afternoon were dangerous. Trouin replies, casually, that he has no idea—his orders are to bomb everything in the area. He adds, a little defensively, that Fowler is “a part” of the war, too. Fowler disagrees, stressing that he’s only a reporter, preparing to return to England.
Many sections of The Quiet American begin with Fowler reiterating that he’s indifferent to the fighting in Vietnam. While this repetition can be a little irritating at times, it serves a useful purpose: with every time that Fowler insists he’s not engagé, he seems to actually get a little more engagé.
Fowler and Trouin continue to talk about the war. Trouin tells Fowler that the French will never win in Vietnam—they’re losing troops every day.
Trouin’s words are prophetic—the French would eventually pull out of Vietnam, paving the way for an unstable country and a long and bloody war.
Fowler and Trouin smoke opium, and shortly thereafter, Fowler retires to have sex with a prostitute, whom Trouin recommends very highly. As he lies in bed with the prostitute, he realizes that she is wearing the same perfume as Phuong. He finds that he can’t perform sexually with her. He apologizes and blames his impotence on the opium—an excuse which the prostitute accepts, smiling.
Greene reminds us of how fragile Fowler’s masculinity is. Though he jealously fights with Pyle for Phuong, it’s never made clear to us that Fowler is particularly interested in sex. This is also a very physical and depressing sign that Fowler truly is heartbroken about Phuong.