Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels

By Robert Hoskins | Go to book overview
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Protagonists of the Second Phase

Brighton Rock is most often regarded, and understandably so, as a significant beginning for Greene, for it is his first novel centered around the Catholic themes on which his reputation as a major twentieth-century writer would be built. Yet in another sense Brighton Rock, with its extremes of alienation, cruelty, and blasphemy, its cinematic style and its profuse overlay of allusion and literary parallels, represents the end of a period, the full achievement of the direction in which Greene had taken his first-phase protagonists. No subsequent novel by the author would be quite so rich in simile or so stark in its juxtaposition of good and evil; no ending would be quite so bleak as that in which the widowed Rose goes to her room alone to confront offstage “the worst horror of all”; no protagonist would seem more completely unlike his creator or provide a voice from which such withering blasts against the sanctities of bourgeois existence could be delivered. Pinkie is the last of Greene's first-phase protagonists; in D., hero of The Confidential Agent (1939), we can see the beginning of the second phase.


Jim Baxter, the young narrator of Greene's final novel The Captain and the Enemy (1988), represents in several respects a return to the narrative of romantic adventure seen in Greene's earliest novels. His story will be discussed in a later chapter, but he needs mention here as the sole exception to an obvious yet significant generalization about Greene's


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