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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Desperate hero : a study of character and fate in the novels of Graham Greene Easton, Tristan R.


The purpose of this thesis will be to show how Graham Greene's vision of man's position in the modern world changes and deepens as the author matures as a man and a novelist. The thesis will be primarily concerned with the relationship of the central characters of Greene's novels to their environment. I will try to show how this relationship, which in Greene's early novels is often fatalistic and deterministic, changes as Greene becomes more concerned with the possibilities of a spiritual and moral 'awakening' within his heroes which can perhaps counterbalance the forces of determinism. In order to explore this expansion of Greene's vision, it will be necessary to analyze not only the growth in complexity and self-awareness that takes place in the main characters of Greene's novels, but also to explore the moral and physical universe these characters inhabit. It is the unceasing conflict between the oppressive, paralyzing environment and the protagonist's desperate search for meaning and purpose that creates the basic tension in Greene's writings. I hope to show in this essay that while the environment remains a more or less hostile constant in Greene's fictional world, the scope and vision of the protagonist is widened and enlarged to the extent that he becomes an individual capable of choice and action rather than a mere victim imprisoned by forces beyond his control. This study of the development of the hero in Greene's fiction is composed of four chapters, which attempt to delineate the changing relationship between the hero and his world. Chapter One, "The Outsider As Victim", focuses on Greene's early novels — The Man Within, It's a Battlefield, Stamboul Train and England Made Me — which portray a world where the protagonists become a prey to themselves and their environment, unable to rise above their own impotence as the fatalistic world closes in around them. Chapter Two, "Studies in Social Determinism", deals with two novels, A Gun for Sale and Brighton Rock, in which the author develops the conflict between determinism and free will. Although both Raven and Pinkie, the protagonists of these two novels, have occasional glimpses of the possibilities of love and peace that are denied the earlier characters, they too are denied these possibilities because they have no free will. They cannot choose to live, since, totally conditioned by confusion and hatred, they are destined for destruction, haunted as they may be by visions of 'freedom'. Chapter Three, "The Rise of the Individual", attempts to show how the protagonists of The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter emerge as fully rounded individuals who are able to choose and act in spite of the fatalistic world that threatens to stifle free will. Greene's increasing emphasis on God's mercy and grace creates an 'opening' in the deterministic world; the protagonist is no longer necessarily a victim of his own inevitable fate. The concluding chapter, "Love and Commitment", will attempt to summarize the new more positive stance of the protagonist in Greene's later, increasingly more secular novels -- The End of the Affair, The Quiet American, The Burnt-Out Case and The Comedians.

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