Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels

By Robert Hoskins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE

Monsignor Quixote

Monsignor Quixote tempts one to think of it as Greene's valedictory work even though it is not. The most serene of his novels, it seems almost calculated to lay to rest demons from the past. In Monsignor Quixote the agonizing problem of doubt that has troubled so many of Greene's characters and, by his frequent admissions, Greene himself, is safely contained within a Christian perspective and declared essential to true faith. Sexuality and sexual jealousy, the source of endless unhappiness and conflict in earlier works, become the stuff of comedy, viewed with tolerance, compassion, and humane detachment by the kindly and innocent protagonist, Father Quixote. Innocence itself, so often conceived in Greene's earlier novels as lost, or hopelessly inadequate to deal with the world, or positively dangerous (wandering the world like a leper without a bell), is restored here to its proper theological role as a saintly virtue. Moreover, Father Quixote performs actions and voices attitudes that seem to reprise many of the author's characters and themes: he fulfills the ambitions of the lost child in Pinkie (to be a priest, to be celibate) and the failed adult in Greene's other priest-protagonist, the whisky priest (to be a good priest); he dignifies failure by suggesting that those who fail are closer to God; he believes in human love as an expression of divine love; and he contends that hatred is the other side of love. Greene has made Monsignor Quixote highly personal and revealing of his own spiritual life yet also characteristically oblique, its revelation framed in an extensive

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