Graham Greene: An Approach to the Novels

By Robert Hoskins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE

A Gun for Sale

In his fascinating study Mixing Memory and Desire: The Waste Land and British Novels, Fred Crawford identifies Graham Greene as a writer profoundly influenced by T.S. Eliot. Asserting that “Greene's development as a novelist paralleled his growing understanding of The Waste Land,” Crawford traces carefully the stages by which Greene learned to make novelistic capital out of the vast resources of Eliot's poem:

Greene's early reading of Eliot's criticism and poetry, which began when Greene was still at Oxford, provided an explanation of and memorable imagery for “the real world…full of lust, betrayal, violence, and exploitation” which dominates his work. Yet because he did not understand The Waste Land's relation to his own ideas until he had read Eliot's critical essays, Greene's early attempts to profit from The Waste Land were less successful than in his later writing. Only when he placed Waste Land imagery into its proper context, could Greene create his own Waste Land. Once he had accomplished that, he was able to select particular aspects of Eliot's poem to fit his purpose as a writer. (105)

Having thus established Greene's use of Eliot as a measure of artistic maturity, Crawford judges individual works accordingly. Brighton Rock (1938) becomes a watershed, Greene's first successful rendering of characters who “confront the dilemmas of The Waste Land, struggling to

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