Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A third-person narrative, “A Drive in the Country” achieves its somber effects through a psychologically acute presentation of the young woman’s dawning awareness of the value of life and the uncertain consequences of death. In the course of the narrative, Graham Greene convincingly presents a character who changes from an attitude of come-what-may to one of stoic vulnerability. The turning point of the story is reached when she refuses Fred’s offer of a love-death and accepts instead everyday life in an economically depressed society. Talk of unemployment and Bolshies (as she makes her way back to London) contributes to the reader’s awareness of time and place and establishes the dominant theme of social inequality.

Greene is known primarily as a writer who employs Roman Catholic notions in his novels and stories. “A Drive in the Country” can, although it need not, be read as a commentary on the sham suicide pact into which Pinkie Brown attempts to trick the girl Rose in Brighton Rock (1938). In that novel, Pinkie and Rose are Roman Catholics, and the love-death bears on their understanding of the moral ramifications of the sin of despair. The bird whose gigantic wings beat against the windscreen of the car that carries Rose and Pinkie to Peacehaven and, as Rose believes, to their deaths, can consequently be read as a divine prompting that tempts Pinkie to good as Satan has tempted him to evil. There are in “A Drive in the Country” no statements that are overtly religious in intention, except the one in which Fred notes that neither he nor the girl believes in God. However, the wood, suggestive of Dante’s dark wood of error; the fact that the girl makes a choice for life over death; the use of the word “damnation”; and the references to suicide as a desperate gamble suggest a moral interpretation that is difficult to dismiss.