Graham Greene

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Graham Greene's "The End of the Party" is a psychological horror story. It has many elements of the Gothic: the genre of literature that explores the darker, hidden, and frightening sides of life and the human psyche. Typical of the Gothic, it features a pair of twins, with Peter as the "whole" twin and Francis representing and mirroring the fears in himself that Peter would like to repress and ignore. The story also has elements of the Gothic in the setting, which prominently includes night, darkness, and the imagery of bats. Death hovers over the story like a bat; the story opens with Francis dreaming of dying and ends with his actual death. The corpse is a key feature of the Gothic and also a key example of a doppelgänger—the twin to the human—for the corpse is both human and completely nonhuman, that which is part of ourselves (as we all will die) and that which we fear.

Although Francis and Peter are two distinct individuals and each has his own thoughts—the point of view switches back and forth from Peter to Francis throughout the story—they are also, symbolically, a representation of the other. For example, Francis thinks:

To address Peter was to speak to his own image in a mirror, an image a little altered by a flaw in the glass, so as to throw back less a likeness of what he was than of what he wished to be, what he would be without his unreasoning fear of darkness, footsteps of strangers, the flight of bats in dusk-filled gardens.

However, Peter understands Francis well enough that he also has, if far more repressed, his own fears of the same things. Peter thinks of Francis as "a mirror":

He was, if not Francis himself, at least a mirror to him.

As the day progresses and the time for the party grows nearer, the imagery is filled with foreboding:

Darkness came down like the wings of a bat.

The wind is "cold" as they approach the house where the party will be held, and the nurse's "electric torch," what we would call a flashlight, cuts only a "short trail" through the darkness. At the party, the suppressed cruelty inherent in the games becomes apparent as Francis and Peter try to get Francis out of playing hide and go seek in the darkness:

Six children began to sing, "Cowardy cowardy custard," turning torturing faces with the vacancy of wide sunflowers towards Francis Morton.

The reality of social violence—the establishing of who is "strong" and who is "weak" through a game the children are forced to play—is perhaps more frightening than Francis's fears.

It is significant that when Francis dies, Peter wonders why:

The pulse of his brother's fear went on and on, when Francis was now where he had always been told there was no more terror and no more—darkness.

Is the fear an aspect of Peter as well as Francis? Has Peter externalized and projected the parts of himself that he did not want to face onto his twin, his doppelgänger? The story strongly suggests that Francis is a part of Peter and that, with Francis's death, Peter will have to face himself in a way he has not before.

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