(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In his introduction, Graham Greene notes that Brighton Rock “began as a detective novel,” but readers and critics of the work soon realize that in the development of the central character, Pinkie Brown, and in the reversal of the hunt for the victim, Fred Hale, Greene has provided yet another of his studies of evil, sin, and the “appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”

Against the lively backdrop of a Bank Holiday, which brings happy tourists to the seaside resort, Greene presents the frightened Fred Hale. The first words establish the terror: “Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.” Hale, known as Kolly Kibber in a popular newspaper, has been hired to leave cards at various places so that readers who recognize him can claim a prize. Instead, he is recognized by Pinkie, who seeks revenge for Hale’s betrayal of Pinkie’s mentor (and father figure), Kite. The first hunt is under way.

Although Hale seeks refuge in Ida Arnold’s Earth Mother arms, Pinkie and his gang find him as he waits for Ida to come out of the lavatory. Seeking to establish an alibi, Pinkie has Spicer, one of his gang, leave a Kolly Kibber card in the restaurant where he was to have appeared, but the new waitress, Rose, notices that he does not look like the person in the newspaper picture. Pinkie, knowing that he cannot permit this loose end, plans to control her, either with the threat of...

(The entire section is 570 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

At the Brighton pier on a sunny Whitsun bank holiday, a terrified Fred Hale distributes his cards. Under the pseudonym Kolly Kibber, Hale places his cards along the route as part of his job as a newspaper promoter. Pinkie, the new leader of Kite’s gang, begins to haunt Hale for being complicit in Kite’s murder.

In a frantic search for comfort and protection, Hale links up with the affable London barmaid Ida Arnold, who is enjoying a relaxing holiday. Fearing for his life, Hale begs Ida to accompany him for the rest of the day, and she willingly accepts his invitation. Ida makes a quick trip to the ladies room; when she reappears, Hale is gone. He has been kidnapped. He is then murdered by Pinkie’s gang.

To establish an alibi after Hale’s murder, Pinkie’s men continue to distribute Hale’s cards along the pier. Gang member Spicer leaves a card at Snow’s restaurant, and a waitress there, Rose, notices that a stranger is distributing Kibber’s cards. Pinkie, in turn, sees Rose’s concern. He then realizes that Rose could be an important witness against the gang in any future trial against them, and so he decides to befriend her.

Back in London after her brief holiday, Ida learns of Hale’s death. She sees Hale’s photograph in the newspaper and learns that the authorities have attributed his death to natural causes. Ida, who has “instincts,” smells something “fishy” about the coroner’s report and decides to do some investigating of her own. After interviewing a potential witness and attending Hale’s cremation, Ida is still dissatisfied, and she vows to find justice for Hale.

In the meantime, Pinkie continues to curry favor with Rose. On a date at a local dance hall, Pinkie and Rose discuss religion and find they are both “Romans” (Catholics), albeit with different perspectives; Pinkie’s mind is on Hell and Rose’s is on Heaven.

Intent on unmasking the details of Hale’s death, Ida takes a temporary room in Brighton. Following a racetrack tip that Hale had...

(The entire section is 838 words.)