How can we explain the title of the book Ministry of Fear by Graham Green?

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lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title refers to the name of the Nazi spy ring that the protagonist Arthur Rowe helps to expose. Green's novel is set during the Second World War in the days of the blitz and the title gives a sinister ring to the familiar political word "Ministry" (there are Ministries of Justice, Home Affairs, Health etc but there is obviously no Ministry of Fear in a country's government). The phrase The Ministry of Fear is one of the novel's several allusions to William Wordsworth's poetry, The Prelude in particular. Green explcitly recognized Wordsworth's influence in the introduction to the version in the Collected Edition. The words of the title come from Book I of The Prelude (see in particular lines 464-8 and 472-75) where Wordsworth identifies Nature's ministries as interacting with the poet's imagination to create beautiful sensations and deep emotions. These then become the subject of poetry. The sense of harmony and communion with Nature and the external world are an ironic counterpart to Rowe's situation. Surrounded by the horrors of the war and his own mercy killing of his terminally-ill wife, Rowe is denied any possible hope in a future when he can regain his lost innocence.