By Murray Roston (auth.)
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Extra info for Graham Greene’s Narrative Strategies: A Study of the Major Novels
Suddenly, without warning, he experiences a sense of homesickness as he thinks of the hostages in the prison-yard, the suffering and endurance that existed on the other side of the mountain (p. 172). He knows that the half-caste is lying, he knows that by returning to administer last rites to a gangster who has no intention of repenting he is walking into a trap; but he knows also that such was the true justification for his vocational choice, that however remote the chance might be of saving the gringo’s soul, the attempt must be made.
At the end of the novel, despite his personal hatred of religion, in direct contradiction to his own principles and to the totalitarian law, he generously attempts to find a confessor for the priest. That he is in certain ways the priest’s counterpart has long been noted. He lives ascetically, spurning all luxury and comfort, indifferent to women, his room resembling a monastic cell, with Greene adding the further comment for any who may have missed the point that there was ‘something of a priest in his intent, observant walk – a theologian going back over the errors of the past to destroy them again’.
He said dully, ‘Every man here is somebody’s husband or somebody’s son. ’ (p. 77) Herein lies the crux of the matter. Communism had begun in a mood of profound compassion, the horror of seeing some poor woman and her babe starving to death in a country where the wealthy live at ease, what Marx termed the exploitation of one part of the society by another. It was the suffering of the individual that drove Marx and Engels to formulate the new doctrine, their claim that the labourer ‘sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class.