As he had in Dog Soldiers (1974), Robert Stone in A Flag for Sunrise mingled philosophy, religion, politics, war, and crime to examine how his characters discover and maintain their identities in an ever-changing global society fraught with greed, corruption, violence, and conflicting interests. Holliwell, Justin, Egan, and Pablo are all alone in different ways, each struggling to find meaning in his or her life. Despite the various connections each makes, all remain essentially estranged from those around them, understanding themselves almost as little as they do others. Just before killing Pablo, Holliwell offers what he calls the abridgment of hope, the state in which all of Stone’s protagonists find themselves.
Stone has acknowledged the influence of Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo: A Tale of the Seaboard (1904), which also presents the interlaced fates of disparate characters in a fictional Latin American country. Conrad assembled similar characters, isolated in cultures they do not fully understand, in novels such as Victory: An Island Tale (1915), a philosophical work that Stone has called one of his favorite novels. Stone’s characters also recall the burnt-out protagonists of such Graham Greene novels as The Power and the Glory (1940), The Quiet American (1955), and A Burnt-Out Case (1961). Stone was influenced by the treatment of religiosity by Greene, who favored rum-soaked priests similar to Father Egan who have struggled with their faith.
Out of touch with his turbulent times, Father Egan conducts arguments with himself to justify his belief. Egan’s faith seems moribund, yet he hopes it can somehow be rekindled. Another Greene influence can be seen in Holliwell’s disastrous Compostela speech, which recalls the performance of the naive American pulp writer in The Third Man (1950) who is asked to discuss literature with a group of Viennese...
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