The Green Man is the story of a haunting and an exorcism. Its action takes place in The Green Man, an English pub not far from Cambridge, which harbors at least three apparitions: the harmless and ineffective ghost of Mrs. Underhill, allegedly murdered by her husband by supernatural means some time in the 1680’s; Dr. Thomas Underhill himself, a malignant ghost still trying to cause harm from beyond the grave; and the Green Man, a spirit (or force) which can take physical form from trees and bushes and so carry out the murderous wishes of its director. Yet although all these “facts” have been made clear and accepted by the end of the story, they are at the beginning naturally no more than allegations, faced by the deep skepticism of characters and at least a majority of readers. The main difficulty of the novelist writing a ghost story in the late twentieth century is to persuade his audience that superstitions from the past can coexist with a well-imagined and realistic present.
Kingsley Amis achieves this in several skillful and unexpected ways. To begin with, the “real world” is always strongly present in the novel. While Maurice Allington grapples with ghosts and visions, he is always simultaneously coping with a demanding job (taking bookings, pacifying staff, checking and collecting deliveries) and with a sequence of personal crises (mainly the death and burial of his father, but also a withdrawn teenage daughter and a second wife who is reluctant to act as a business partner and stepmother). Weird events, then, are firmly embedded in prosaic context.
Allington, the narrator, furthermore reacts to the hauntings in much the same...
(The entire section is 686 words.)