The Quiet American

The Quiet American Summary and Analysis of Part Four, Chapter 1

Part Four, Chapter 1


The first chapter of Part Four flashes forward to right after Pyle's death. Fowler is expecting Vigot to pay him a visit and has sent Phuong to the movies so that they can speak privately. By this point, Vigot is aware that Fowler's editor has given him an additional year in Vietnam. They briefly engage in small talk. Fowler then addresses the real reason that Vigot is there: the policeman still suspects that Fowler is somehow involved in Pyle's death.

Fowler asks what Vigot believes his motive to be - does he think Fowler was motivated by jealousy over Phuong? Vigot knows better than that, though - "I'm not so stupid," he says, and, pointing at the York Harding book, continues, "One doesn't take one's enemy's book as a souvenir. There it is on your shelf" (220). Fowler claims that York Harding is actually responsible for Pyle's death, and explains that because of Harding's ideas, Pyle was looking for the Third Force - and Fowler, incidentally, became mixed up in the whole ordeal. 

However, Vigot still suspects that Fowler's involvement was not accidental. Fowler comments that Vigot would have made a good priest - prompting confessions. They continue to discuss the motivations that drive people to confess, and debate whether or not people do it to cleanse themselves or to see themselves as they really are. Vigot asks Fowler to repeat his alibi once again. Vigot comes to the conclusion that there was not enough time for Fowler to have killed Pyle himself, but there was enough time for Pyle and Fowler to have met. 

As Vigot exposes these gaps in Fowler's alibi, he also comments on the analysis of Pyle's dog's feet. Apparently, Pyle's dog had cement in between his toes, and, coincidentally, the builders at work on the floor below Fowler had poured wet cement on the ground that night. Vigot points out that Pyle and his dog would have had to go past the builders on their way up to Fowler's apartment, even though he cannot prove that the dog walked through the cement at this particular location. Fowler leaves the room, leaving Vigot no choice but to get up and bid the Englishman farewell. 

In a revealing final sentence of the chapter, Fowler thinks, "Now that Vigot was gone to close his uncompleted file, I wished I had the courage to call him back and say, 'You are right. I did see Pyle the night he died'" (225).


Greene expertly uses jumps in time to increase the suspense in this last section of The Quiet AmericanThe juxtaposition of this chapter, which takes place in the present day, with the last chapter (a flashback to the bombing) hints that Fowler is finally going to reveal what he knows about Pyle's death. The bombing in the square is the very "emotional moment" that Captain Trouin had predicted would force Fowler once to eventually take a side in the conflict. However, is not entirely clear what Fowler is going to say to Mr. Heng after leaving the scene of the bombing. Greene builds on this suspense by choosing not to move linearly through time to Fowler's meeting with Mr. Heng. 

The expectation that Fowler may reveal additional truths to Vigot is palpable in this chapter, especially considering the topics they discuss as they skirt around the issue of Pyle's death. Fowler clearly blames Harding for Pyle's ignorance. In the context of the bombing, it has become clear how influential Harding was on Pyle. Pyle believed in Harding's ideology so deeply that he was willing to look beyond the loss of innocent lives in the square. The question becomes: was Fowler so frustrated with Pyle's blind faith in Harding that he was willing to kill him?

There is a moment of irony in this chapter. Vigot has drawn conclusions about Pyle's death and Fowler's involvement in it by inspecting Pyle's dog's paws. At the beginning of the novel, Fowler sarcastically suggested that Vigot could look at the dog's paws for evidence in the case. They had both laughed it off and essentially dismissed it, but now Vigot has found the dog and is using Fowler's suggestions to build the case against him. Fowler is underwhelmed by Vigot's accusations, but it is possible that Fowler is dealing with some kind of guilt and subconsciously wants to confess. 

The reader faces many questions in this chapter, and the suspense surrounding the answers only builds as the novel draws to a close. The reader must come to terms with whether or not Fowler is a reliable narrator now that Greene has presented us with almost all the facts surrounding Pyle and Fowler's erratic relationship. It is now clear that Fowler is more emotionally volatile than he originally let on, and it is possible that he could have acted upon this anger during his meeting with Mr. Heng. Part 4 Ch.1 and Part 3 Ch. 2 are the most climactic portions of the novel, and they occur just as the novel is coming to an end. A very swift denouement awaits.