A number of possible themes seem relevant to Graham Greene’s novel The Ministry of Fear. Among such themes are the following:
- APPEARANCE VS. REALITY. This novel is very much concerned with the distinction between what is real and what only appears to be real. Discovering the reality of his situation is a major concern of the central character and of the book’s readers as well.
- VARIETIES OF DEATH. This novel deals with a wide variety of ways to die – by mercy killing, by bomb blast during war, by murder, and by suicide (to mention just a few).
- CONSEQUENCES OF CHANCE. It is only by chance that Rowe wins the cake that causes him so many problems.
- VARIETIES OF WAR. Rowe is the target of a secret war while a real and quite obvious war rages around him.
- CONFLICTING LOYALTIES. The English sympathizers of the Nazis are one group to whom this theme is relevant; Anna Hilfe is an individual to whom the theme applies.
- THE IRONIES OF LIFE. This is a book full of ironies. Thus, Rowe’s use of poison to kill his wife helps him detect the same poison when someone later tries to poison him. Rowe thinks he is lucky to win the cake, but of course his winning of the cake and his refusal to part with it cause all his troubles. Irony is also present, for instance, in the sentence saying that the festival at which Rowe wins the cake
called him like innocence: it was entangled in childhood, with vicarage gardens and girls in white summer frocks and the smell of herbaceous borders and security.
Of course, his involvement with this festival will involve him in something far different from innocence, beauty, or security.