The Quiet American

The Quiet American Summary and Analysis of Part Four, Chapter 3

Part Four, Chapter 3


This chapter flashes forward again to right after Vigot has visited Fowler looking for additional information about Pyle's death. Phuong has returned from the movie, and she begins to recount the plot to Fowler. He asks Phuong if she is happy, and she absentmindedly says, "of course." Fowler knows that he doesn't deserve more of an answer, so he doesn't push for one. Phuong begins to prepare a pipe for Fowler to smoke.

She mentions that a telegram has arrived for him, but Fowler doesn't want to be bothered with work at the moment. He asks her to tell him more about the film, and she abides. He cuts off her synopsis halfway through, though, and decides that he better read the telegram. It is surprisingly not from work but from his wife. It reads: "HAVE THOUGHT OVER YOUR LETTER AGAIN STOP AM ACTING IRRATIONALLY AS YOU HOPE STOP HAVE TOLD MY LAWYER START DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS GROUNDS DESERTION STOP GOD BLESS YOU AFFECTIONATELY HELEN" (248).

Phuong wonders if Fowler has been called to the north for a reporting job, but he comforts her and reads her the telegram. She is ecstatic and wants to tell her sister right away. Fowler stares across the room and sees Pyle's book. He asks Phuong if she misses him, but she never really responds. She only says that she is happy that she will be able to marry Fowler. Fowler apologizes for everything that has happened, but Phuong doesn't want an apology. She wants to go tell her sister the good news, and Fowler lets her leave. As the novel closes, he reflects, "Everything had gone right with me since he had died, but how I wished there existed someone to whom I could say that I was sorry" (249).


In contrast to the internal turmoil that Fowler is feeling during the last chapter (during which he involves himself in Pyle's death), Fowler is relatively at ease here. He has Phuong back, and he has just received news from his wife that she is willing to start the divorce proceedings. He may not be happy, but he is at least content, and, as he observes - things have been going well for him since Pyle's death. He does not feel an intense guilt for his role in the decision to take a side, but he does realize that it will complicate every decision he makes in the future. He can no longer claim that he is impartial. He is now involved in the conflict, whether he likes it or not.

Fowler's relatively relaxed state is interesting to note because Part 4, Ch. 3 and Part 4, Ch. 2 occur the closest together (temporally) of any of the chapters. Only a few days have passed since Pyle's murder (which occurs in Chapter 2), so it is surprising that Fowler is so calm in this chapter. He shows a remarkable sense of acceptance. Even though he is dealing with the guilt of having taken a man's life, he is willing to live with the consequences of making a major decision finally taking a side - and this could potentially be because he has now confessed. 

Fowler only wishes he had someone to say he was sorry to, but there is no one in his life that he can turn to with this matter. Fowler has never been clear in his narration, and it is possible that his story (the novel itself) is his way of confessing to the reader and apologizing for what he has done. Many of Fowler's most honest and vulnerable moments occur in his internal narration, where nobody but the reader is aware of what he is thinking or feeling. The reader, more so than anybody else Fowler's life, has been able to sympathize with Fowler and appreciate the many facets of his character. Fowler never addresses the reader or breaks his narration to explain why he is telling this story, but his tone throughout the novel and order in which he chooses to narrate the events are certainly reminiscent of a confession.

This confessional mode of storytelling is likely influenced by Greene's Catholic beliefs. Many of his protagonists face internal struggles against sin, just like Fowler, and Greene's work has drawn controversy in the past by highlighting these inconsistencies between faith and reality. For example, Fowler's marriage to Helen is only intact because of the Catholic Church's protection - but there is no love between them. Fowler has only ever found love outside of the confines of marriage, though, and his life with Helen is miserable. These Catholic themes become less prevalent in Greene's later novels, and indeed Fowler's faith does not overtly play a role in his decision to give Pyle up to the Communists. He alludes to confessing during his final meeting with Vigot, but he does not and yet, he remains sympathetic. Ernest Mandel suggests, "the better [Greene] came to know the socio-political realities of the third world where he was operating, and the more directly he came to be confronted by the rising tide of revolution in those countries, the more his doubts regarding the imperialist cause grew, and the more his novels shifted away from any identification with the latter."