The Quiet American

The Quiet American

The Quiet American Part 3, Chapter 2, Section 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Fowler returns to Saigon, noting that there is no one to welcome him back to the city. When he returns to his home, he is surprised to find Pyle waiting for him, in the chair where Phuong always used to sit. Pyle explains that Joe told him that Fowler went to the Legation to confront him—so now he has come to Fowler’s home to talk.
Pyle, as usual, is almost laughably insensitive while also being well-intentioned. He wants to still be “buddies” with Fowler, even after totally betraying him and causing him great pain.
Themes
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Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Fowler asks Pyle if he and Phuong are married yet—Pyle says that they’re not, and that he’s trying to find a way to take a leave of absence so that he and Phuong can be married “properly” in America. Fowler imagines how strange Phuong will find America, with its fast pace, its grocery stores, etc. He tells Pyle to “go easy on” Phuong—the same advice that Pyle gave him months ago. Pyle nods and says that he will.
Pyle’s arrogant love for the United States is always clear. Here, we see how blatantly he conflates “properness” with Americanness. It’s appropriate that Fowler reminds Pyle to keep Phuong’s interests in mind—it often seems that Pyle is uninterested in Phuong’s feelings, and only wants to bring her back to America with him, like a trophy.
Themes
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Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon
Romance and Sex Theme Icon
Pyle says that he’s glad he and Fowler can talk, and that he still considers Fowler a friend. Fowler nods in agreement. As Pyle prepares to leave, Fowler shakes his hand and tells him not to trust too much in York Harding. He warns Pyle that General Thé doesn’t represent the Third Force Harding discusses—on the contrary, Thé is only a small-minded “bandit.” When Pyle says he doesn’t know what Fowler means, Fowler accuses Pyle of designing the bicycle bombs that detonated in the fountain. Pyle doesn’t admit or deny his involvement in the bombing, but only thanks Fowler for his advice. He assures Fowler that they’ll see one another soon.
Here Fowler offers his most articulate attack on York Harding, and, in general, the tyranny of ideology. Harding is a practitioner of “Strong theory”—the technique of developing a very simple idea and then applying it to everything. The problem with such an approach is that it encourages its practitioners to trust in tyrants and demagogues, just because they’re so certain and inspiring in their conviction. Pyle’s lack of response to Fowler’s accusations suggests that Pyle was involved in the bombing, and also that he’s in over his head in trying to apply simple ideals to a complex reality.
Themes
Vietnam and the West Theme Icon
Impartiality and Action Theme Icon
Friendship, Loyalty, and Betrayal Theme Icon