England Made Me

By Keyser, Les | Literature/Film Quarterly, Fall 1974 | Go to article overview

England Made Me


Keyser, Les, Literature/Film Quarterly


England Made Me. published in 1935 in London and later released in the United States under the title The Shipwrecked, was one of Graham Greene's favorite novels. In this early work, Greene thought he "let go" for the first time as a storyteller treating the contemporary world.1 Greene was very consciously attempting to relate several key themes in his fiction to the social, economic, and political realities of contemporary life; England Made Me was his first truly political novel.

Despite a carefully worded disclaimer that "none of the characters in this book is intended to be that of a living person,"2 most readers could see the parallels between Greene's portrait of an industrial giant, Erik Krogh, and the life of Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match manufacturer. In England Made Me, Greene was studying the milieu of capitalism and the shipwrecked souls who tied their fates to the rise of industrial dynasties. In barest outline, the novel is the tale of two twins: Anthony Farrant. a charming ne'er-do-well imbued with traditional English prep school values, and his sister, Kate, an efficient successful executive, who loves her brother and who feels responsible for his archaic and parochial value system. Kate, the mistress of the manipulative financier Erik Krogh, the archetypal internationalist and modern man, hopes she can salvage the man of her past, Anthony. England Made Me involves a perverse love triangle which encapsulates larger interactions: of past values and present realities, of nationalism and internationalism, of human tradition and industrial expedience.

Greene, who became film critic for The Spectator the same year England Made Me was published, used a film-inspired epigram for his novel: "All the world owes me a living." This small bit of wisdom from Walt Disney in The Grasshopper and the Ants offers a rather sardonic comment on the political and economic themes Greene treats. England Made Me is a study of the way people make a living and of the way they live; it is also a story of debts, short term and long term, financial and psychic.

Greene is just as concerned in England Made Me with the psychology of his characters as he is with the realities of their environment. England Made Me is his only novel in which he periodically employs a stream of consciousness technique to force readers inside the mind of his protagonists. Early in the novel readers share with Anthony his dreams of "old faces, faces hated, faces loved, alive or dead, sick or dying, a lot of junk in the brain after thirty years, the prow rising to the open sea, the lightship behind, and the gramophone playing" (p. 11). Most of the junk in Anthony's brain involves his traditional English education, the merciless beatings which convinced him of the value of love, honor, and family; his musing also catalogues the long exile in the East where he tried to carry English ideals forward in his pursuit of elusive success. Tony Farrant had not always accepted the English tradition; as a boy, he tried to run away from his father, from his twin sister, from English values, but Kate, he remembers, sent him back to endure the necessary misery, the savage indoctrination.

Kate, in her interior monologues also remembers the past, Tony's attempted escape, and her role in sending him back. Kate loves her brother physically and emotionally and views her whole adult life as an attempt to undo that fateful advice, the inadvertent betrayal that condemned Tony to a conventional English value system. Kate has, she declares, "plotted for this, saved for this. that we should be together again" (p. 59).

While most critics feel that Greene's attempts at stream of consciousness narration were not felicitous and that he subsequently abandoned the technique because he sensed its limitations, the stream of consciousness chapters in England Made Me are central to the development of the novel. All of England Made Me depends on a constantly shifting, but none the less limited point of view. …

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