The End of the Affair

by Graham Greene
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In The End of the Affair, is it possible for two characters to love each other with both divine love and romantic love?

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The distinction between divine love and romantic love is of course the distinction that kills the relationship between Sarah and Bendrix, as Sarah exchanges her romantic love for the divine love that causes her to leave Bendrix, in spite of his profound romantic love for her. However, the novel seems to point towards these two different kinds of love as being completely separate. If we consider how romantic love is characterised through the character of Benrix, we can see that it is distinct from divine love in that it can so easily be changed into hatred. Consider how Bendrix swiftly moves from loving Sarah to hating her when she leaves him, and then moves back to love again when it seems as if they are going to get back together. Romantic love is shown to be supremely selfish, and this above all is the key difference between romantic and divine love. Above all, it is this that makes loving both romantically and divinely impossible.

This is because divine love is shown, through the character of Sarah, to be sacrificial and completely unselfish. If we look at the impact of this divine love on Sarah, we see that she gains a measure of peace and self-acceptance by exchanging her relationship with Bendrix for divine love. She finds this love self-renewing and healing, whereas her relationship with Bendrix was destructive and unhealthy. The two kinds of love are therefore shown as being mutually exclusive, and Sarah in particular shows that she progresses to divine love only after having experienced romantic love.

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