The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Pinkie, The Boy, is a central character whose blighted childhood and repressed sexuality combine to create a force of evil, both fascinating and repelling. At the outset, it seems as if Pinkie is yet another version of Raven, the killer in A Gun for Sale (1936), the man who had killed Pinkie’s mentor Kite, but other elements intrude. Pinkie is no mere juvenile delinquent, as Greene makes clear after the opening thriller aspects of the murder of Hale.

Set in contrast to Ida Arnold, Pinkie’s “Catholic” morality, his sense of good and evil versus her awareness of societal right and wrong, makes him into a holy sinner, an outsider who can find no peace in the type of “game” others play, no solace in sensuality, no release in ordinary vices such as drinking or smoking. The quintessential isolate, Pinkie functions under the blessing and curse of a twisted sense of being caught between the “stirrup and the ground.” Readers may see Pinkie as pitiful in his psychological and sexual immaturity, and all the physical descriptions of him show him as the frail, out-of-place villain. His despicable cruelty, his callous disregard of Rose’s redeeming love, and his rejection of even the gang members’ loyalty mark him as the outsider, the stranger to himself and others. Yet Greene depicts him as a magnificent sinner because of his awareness of that hidden God, that religious other world that makes Ida’s casual morality seem a charade. Rose and...

(The entire section is 586 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Pinkie Brown

Pinkie Brown, called The Boy, a frail, seventeen-year-old gang leader. Pinkie’s Catholic background haunts him with a growing sense of his eternal damnation; still, he wildly hopes that there is a chance for repentance and salvation. Initially, he sets out with his gang to kill Fred Hale, the man who betrayed Pinkie’s mentor to a rival gangster. A sixteen-year-old waitress named Rose sees Spicer, one of Pinkie’s men, shortly before Hale’s murder. To have her conceal what she knows of the crime, Pinkie pretends an attraction to her, even though he is disgusted by thoughts of sex or physical closeness with Rose or anyone. When he learns from Rose that a woman is inquiring into Hale’s death, he acts to solidify his position: He kills Spicer, who was thinking about going to the police, and he arranges a marriage with Rose so that she cannot be forced to testify against him. Increasingly desperate, he takes Rose into the country and tries to talk her into shooting herself by pretending to agree to a suicide pact. A fellow gang member arrives with a policeman, and Rose throws away the gun. Pinkie assumes that he has been betrayed. He smashes a bottle of vitriol, his face steaming as the acid blows on him, and throws himself over a cliff to his death.

Fred Hale

Fred Hale, the man who betrayed Pinkie’s mentor, Kite, to a rival gang leader, Colleoni. Hale has a deep inner humility but an intense pride in his profession. His job at the moment is to pose as a newspaper’s Kolley Kibber, a character who leaves cards along a route printed in the newspaper and who pays out cash prizes to people who find the cards and recognize him. Hale is certain that he will be killed during a holiday at Brighton by Pinkie’s gang, which is out to avenge Kite’s death, but he proudly continues...

(The entire section is 753 words.)