Graham Greene's Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity

Graham Greene's Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity

Graham Greene's Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity

Graham Greene's Fictions: The Virtues of Extremity


Despite an abundance of critical interpretations of Graham Greene's work, shortcomings exist within the available literature on Greene. In addition to redundancy and lack of a broad focus, most criticism of Greene's fiction has a tendency to force Greene into the mold of a Catholic writer, consequently flattening the peaks and valleys of his uncompromising vision of life. Graham Greene's Fictions is Cares Baldridge's response to this critical disservice -- an exploration that ignores the critical preconceptions of Greene's fiction and treats him as one of the leading British novelists of the twentieth century.

More than a general assessment, Graham Greene's Fictions offers a fresh interpretation of familiar texts and attempts to discover within Greene's work a structure of thought that has not yet been seen with sufficient clarity. Each chapter focuses on a major aspect of Greene's thought as expressed in his novels. Greene's caustic attitude toward middle-class orthodoxies and his critiques ofthe three reigning ideologies of his time -- Christianity, Marxism, and liberalism -- are just two of the areas that Baldridge explores in Graham Greene's Fictions. Although five of Greene's novels are singled out for extensive evaluation -- Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, The Comedians, and The Honorary Consul -- most of his fiction is discussed throughout the course of the book.

The first critical evaluation of Greene's entire literary canon since his death in 1991, this innovative study is a reconsideration of Greene's major novels, as well as a recasting of his overall worldview. Written for both the scholar and the general reader, Graham Greene's Fictionssuccessfully captures the attention of all readers whether it is the first or the fifty-first work of Greene criticism one has read.


Reading Graham Greene and the critical literature devoted to him, one quickly discovers the existence of a certain handful of passages that time and again provoke annoyance and even anger from his commentators. One of the scenes that rarely fails to irritate is the following exchange from Brighton Rock, in which the do-gooding and good-timing Ida Arnold is attempting to convince young Rose that Pinkie, her murderous coreligionist, will eventually bring her to grief.

“He wouldn't do me any harm.” “You're young. You don't know things like I do.” “There's things you don't know.” She brooded darkly by the bed, while the woman argued on: a God wept in a garden and cried out upon a cross; Molly Carthew went to everlasting fire.

“I know one thing you don't. I know the difference between Right and Wrong. They didn't teach you that at school.”

Rose didn't answer; the woman was quite right: the two words meant nothing to her. Their taste was extinguished by stronger foods—Good and Evil. The woman could tell her nothing she didn't know about these—she knew by tests as clear as mathematics that Pinkie was evil—what did it matter in that case whether he was right or wrong? (BR, 199)

This and similar episodes incite critics to accuse Greene of granting his Catholic characters a larger and deeper moral capacity— for things both benign and malignant—than he confers upon the various nominal Protestants, zealous atheists, facile spiritualists, and feckless liberals who otherwise people his fiction. George Orwell, for instance, complains that in Greene's novels “Hell is a sort of high-class night club, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only, since the others, the non-Catholics, are too ignorant to be held guilty . . .

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