What single interpretation of the text in the novel The Comedians by Graham Greene best establishes its organic unity?  In other words, how do the text's formal elements, and the multiple meanings...

What single interpretation of the text in the novel The Comedians by Graham Greene best establishes its organic unity?  In other words, how do the text's formal elements, and the multiple meanings those elements produce, all work together to support the theme, or overall meaning, of the work? Is there a theme of universal human significance.

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In The Comedians, Graham Greene stresses to readers that, no matter what intentions a participant in a war zone or desperately poor and dictatorial country may have, ultimately everyone suffers loss and defeat. Even victory is at a price that hardly seems worth it as the innocent must suffer. From the onset, the reader is reminded that, among the real heroes, there are other, so-called heroes who, in fact, without any real sacrifice on their own behalf, have "the blood of their men," on their hands and do not deserve the accolade. The irony is intense and the universal, and indeed enduring, theme relates to the often, well-meaning but misunderstood intentions of western democracies which become involved in countries with autocratic-style governments and different agendas and beliefs just as Haiti in the sixties was governed by tyrannical leader, Papa Doc. 

Furthermore, Greene goes to great pains to reveal to his readers a need to commit and this novel serves as a warning of the dangers of blind acceptance and lack of self-awareness. It is better to be part of something and contribute to something than it is to simply observe:

"Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent."

Organic unity gives a piece of literature its complexity without being restrained by accepted norms, stereotypes or abstract elements. It also ensures that characters complete the picture, developing the plot as it progresses and, without which, the plot development would be stifled. In the context of The Comedians, this is revealed in Greene's style which then couples it with the universal theme of civil war and its effects. There is always a thread and an undertone to Greene's work and his complex characters have internal struggles that often define them; such as Jones who only becomes half of what he has always claimed to be when he holds off the enemy for Henri Philpott to escape. Jones's problems are unique to him but they expose a very real problem that many people, if they are honest, can relate to; that of claiming to be something he is not, for self- satisfaction, putting others at risk in the process.

Therefore, the organic unity is presented in Greene's characters, each of whom plays a crucial role in developing the universal theme of commitment to a purpose, despite the unpleasant and devastating results. There is nothing worse than meaningless acceptance of a situation. 

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