Greene, Graham (Vol. 1)
Greene, Graham 1904–1991
British novelist, author of the novels The Power and the Glory, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair, and The Comedians (among many others), and a recent autobiography, A Sort of Life. (See also, Graham Greene Criticism and volumes 3, 6, 9, 14, 18, and 125.)
What is the meaning of the word "entertainment" as Greene uses it? What relationship have these entertainments to the mystery story genre? Does this thriller form carry any serious intent?… [If] any distinction between the two types of work ["entertainments" and "novels"] is valid, I suspect it will have more to do with a shift in the entertainments from theological to political emphasis than with the evaporation of seriousness.
In what is conventionally called the "novels" such as The Power and the Glory and A Burnt-Out Case, Greene gives us a religious vision with political overtones; whereas his entertainments, A Gun for Sale or Ministry of Fear, give us a political world with religious implications. The distinction between the two types is less than absolute…. Do "novels" never entertain?…
The thriller form is the shape of the modern predicament, not only in its portrayal of flight and pursuit, but in its treatment of the search for identity among the real and the fantastic….
Fiction is surely meant to be agreeable even in a negative sense, so the word ["entertainment"] does not separate the thriller from the novel form….
Greene's disposition to depict the atmosphere of dream and mystery, the romance of the primitive terror, also links his entertainments to the gothic mystery of the late nineteenth century. The heroes of the latter wander the city to solve the riddle of the ghostly terror of their dreams. They are both the pursuer and the pursued. Unlike the detectives of a later generation who coldly rationalize the puzzle with mental gymnastics, the heroes of gothic fiction seek themselves in their tale of terror…. This insistence upon scientific detachment—an undeniably attractive escape mechanism which makes the typical detective story something like a crossword puzzle or a game of chess—is not escape for Greene because it represents the culture washed clean. He returns to the old metaphoric terror, for the supernatural allegory he finds in concrete things. In his hands the detective's detailed game of chess turns into a morality play with the pieces taking on significance as they move. The entertainment is not in the puzzle but in the players….
Greene's novels are not patterned after the Newgate Calendar as were earlier detective stories: his characters are not to be found in police files nor does the solution depend on the scientific method of Scotland Yard. His heroes are jaded and disillusioned. They flee from the middle-class delight in crime detection that keeps one's possessions safe. The desire for a power structured authority to intervene is the dream they struggle against: the man with the surgical gloves—the evil in prim, formulaic convention—presses against the door….
Greene's hunted heroes, like those of romantic mystery fiction as a whole, struggle between two kinds of evil—the primitive evil, James's "fairy-tale side of life" or Maritain's "creative unconscious"—and the jaded evil of a representative superego that gradually paralyzes us as we grow into civilization….
The role of fantasy in Greene's thrillers does not exclude the social context. It is true that Greene drops a puzzling array of religious articles throughout the pages: Jansenist crucifixes, plaster manger scenes, votive candles. This seeming religious atmosphere along with the interiorization of sin has lead some critics to view Greene's Catholicism as more central than any other consideration…. The thriller form with its visionary quality still cannot avoid the social, political commentary upon the source of man's crimes. None of Greene's entertainments ignore the political upheaval of Europe through the thirties and forties….
Greene's thrillers still catch the aesthetic of our age. In a time when the best sellers are "non-fiction novels" about brutal, senseless murders and the last days of a mad Germany, Greene's observation that "thrillers are like life" makes it increasingly difficult to distinguish between melodrama and what we thought was reality.
Carolyn D. Scott, "The Urban Romance: A Study of Graham Greene's Thrillers," in Graham Greene, edited by Harry J. Cargas, B. Herder, undated, pp. 1-27.
In Graham Greene's work no sharp divisions can be drawn between his novels, "entertainments," travel books and miscellaneous sketches and essays. They are all part of a piece, and throughout them all, in some form or other, runs the theme of pursuit.
Neville Braybrooke, "Graham Greene and the Double Man: An Approach to The End of the Affair," in Dublin Review, First Quarter, 1952.
The Power and the Glory is bi-structured, as are in fact most modern symbolic novels…. More than any other novel of Greene's, The Power and the Glory is a book of symbolic identifications, and the spatial pattern of the novel depends entirely on this series of identifications. The priest is, obviously, at the center, and all of the other characters symbolically related to him, as the spokes of a wheel relate to the hub. I would like to call this a "radial pattern," or, more allusively but in line with "the kingdom and the power and the glory," a "radiant pattern." And we may say further that the book "radiates" more than most of Greene's books, for there is hope and promise at the end—a strong contrast with the total loss that awaits Rose at the end of Brighton Rock. "Radiant," then, because that word, while it carries the original notion of the wheel, goes behond to suggest the religious theme of the book and the central symbolic link between the life of the whisky priest and the life of Christ….
In addition to the wheel-like structure of "radiance" there is the second structure, based on the "logic of is based on the pursuit of the priest by the lieutenant causality." This is temporal, rather than spatial, and of police and by God. It is a narrowing, narrative structure that is reminiscent of the film device of "parallel montage," and it gives the novel its intensity and suspense….
Two structures, then: one, which flows chronologically from the beginning of the book to the end, the other, which must be pictured or diagrammed ideally. But it would be a mistake not to realize that the two constitute a fusion: temporal, drama or melodrama; spatial, symbol. There is nothing unique in Greene's combination; it is the aesthetic method of the modern novel, of all novelists of high style as Ortega would say.
Karl Patten, "The Structure of The Power and the Glory" (© 1957 by Purdue Research Foundation, Lafayette, Indiana), in Modern Fiction Studies, Autumn, 1957, pp. 225-34.
In Graham Greene's early fiction, along with a definite but notably uneven development of style and vigor, there was an apparent failure to distinguish between various fictional genres…. The distinction of genres, in a somewhat Gallic manner, would become important for Greene, and in a sense the making of him; but prior to Brighton Rock, we observe an uncertainty of artistic purpose which led to an unstable treatment of the basic elements of fiction: setting, character and action. Part of the success of Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter is due to the preliminary sketching of elements in each of them—a process which, as it turned out, managed to release the special energy and "vision" which would characterize Greene as a writer of stature…. [These three novels are] mystery stories in the popular sense which function ably as trial-runs for mystery dramas in a more ancient and theological sense. Here we touch the crucial distinction underlying the other distinctions, for the mystery of the human condition, beyond or beneath any sociological or historical or psychological explanation thereof, has become Greene's obsessive subject….
It can be said about the earlier novels, then, that the relative and diminishing confusion of purpose, and the blurry handling of the elements, are rooted in a failure to disentangle the mystery of the mystery, to separate it out from the contingencies of melodrama and the staged surprises of the brain-twister. The disentanglement followed [and, subsequently,] the plot and the action of Greene's novels are increasingly given their meaning by the religious motif—a motif which, since it cannot always be called Christian, can scarcely be always called Catholic; a sort of shocked intuition of supernature. It is when the religious motif takes charge that Greene's resources—including his nervous, highly pressured style, and his uncommon talent for narrative—become ordered and controlled, and his very real artistic power fulfills itself.
R. W. B. Lewis, "The 'Trilogy' of Graham Greene" (© 1957 by Purdue Research Foundation, Lafayette, Indiana), in Modern Fiction Studies, Autumn, 1957, pp. 195-215.
Graham Greene's "entertainments," as he now calls books like The Confidential Agent and The Ministry of Fear, to distinguish them from his later "serious" novels, reflected perfectly the pervasive anxiety of the Hitler-Mussolini age. In these thrillers the average man, the muddled and anxious man who usually appears in Greene's fiction as if he had stepped in a grimy mackintosh out of a London tube station, personified everyone's feeling of dread before the inhuman monsters of Nazism-Fascism. At the same time, the Greene hero personified that acute and enigmatic sense of guilt, usually arising from some surprising passion in his personal life, which so often made one irrationally feel that Hitler-Mussolini expressed the dark side of everyone's nature.
The sense of guilt is the essential theme of all Greene's fiction. It explains the chase after the hero in his "entertainments," and as the aftermath of adultery it results in the inner struggle on the brink of damnation that is the stuff of supposedly more "serious" books like The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair. The protagonists in both the entertainments and the novels are essentially decent and haunted human beings who are led into sins of violence and despair by the unexpectedness of some human attachment. They are fools, martyrs and clowns of love, and through their love we see parallel lines—love for a human person, love of the divine law—that cannot meet in time.
Alfred Kazin, "Graham Greene and the Age of Absurdity" (1958), in his Contemporaries (© 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961 by Alfred Kazin; reprinted by permission of Atlantic-Little, Brown and Co.), Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1962, pp. 158-61.
The Quiet American reveals Greene's most advanced use of dramatic irony in the novel form, and once the reader recognizes that Fowler is not Greene's alter ego, but a character being observed and criticized by both reader and author, then the novel as chauvinism disappears, and the novel as art emerges. For Fowler is no spokesman for the British conscience or for Greene the Union Jack-waver; he is a figure being patiently dissected by the novelist and diagnosed as pitifully sterile in a sterile situation, confronted time and again with the cure for his sickness but unable to comprehend it. Briefly, Fowler is a prime example of the obtuse narrator: the story-teller who offers his experiences without fully understanding them, while at the same time providing the less obtuse reader with the complete evidence….
Where does individual existence leave off and social responsibility begin? Greene's novel asks the question, and then transcends it. The Quiet American is an account of various attempts to solve the problem; and Greene's irony is most operative in this, that none of the solutions explicitly proposed is satisfactory, and none of the major characters recognizes the true solution which the reader is led to discover….
The final irony of the novel lies in the fact that Fowler does not have the vision to carry out what may be called the Augustinian pattern of conversion, the flight from and through sensual corporateness into a sense of divine union with all men (a pattern Greene had already used in The End of the Affair.) The sadness of The Quiet American is not that Pyle should die, but that Fowler should have been blind to the only adequate solution of his problem, insoluble by Pyle's economics, by Vigot's quietism, by his own human pity…. Failing to see the irony, we fail to see the real theme of the novel, and consequently fail to see a most impressive argument for the Catholicism of Greene's art.
R. E. Hughes, "The Quiet American: The Case Reopened," in Renascence, Autumn, 1959, pp. 41-2, 49.
It has become a commonplace of literary criticism that the hero in major western fiction has more or less vanished, or, at least, become bourgeois, diminished in stature, somewhat trite in his demands upon life…. In attempting to recover the "hero" for a democratic age, Graham Greene has taken the "fallen democrat" peculiar to our time and tried to raise him through suffering and pain to more heroic stature. Having assumed that the romantic hero is surely dead, Greene still believes that man can be heroic, although in his terms heroism takes on a different hue from that in previous times. Greene has reached back beyond the superficial romantic hero of the nineteenth century to the Greek concept of tragedy, at the same time remembering that Greek tragedy in itself must be modified to suit a basically irreligious, democratic age. Greene feels he must allow for the "fall" that is central to Aristotle's view of the tragic hero; but here that "fall" is man's demonical descent from grace, and his attempt to embrace faith in a seemingly godless universe is the measure of his heroism.
For Greene, the essential human tragedy, implicit in the gap between what man wants and what, because of personal limitations, he is able to attain, is ironic. The latter, his capacity, mocks the former, his desire. Caught between the two, man must evidently fail unless he has a vision of something beyond himself. For him to concentrate solely on his own limitations is to demonstrate indifference to anything that might be greater. In brief, the self-satisfied or indifferent individual precludes his own tragic role, for he places himself beyond the reach of a powerful force, a force, incidentally, that may lead to severe unhappiness as well as to limited happiness. However, if he recognizes an outside transcendental force, the individual is caught by a phenomenon more powerful than himself, and he reacts; he feels inadequate; he becomes a potentially tragic hero….
Because Greene believes that from impurity will come purity, from demonism saintliness, from unbelief belief, from vice virtue, his "heroes" often seem closer to demons than to saints. Nearly every serious Greene protagonist, despite external expedience and even personal degradation, has a vision of saintliness, while his inner conflict, often not apparent to him, results from his inability to live up to his ideal….
Greene has staked everything on his "demonic hero," who, by turning all accepted values upside down, has come to understand God through knowledge of the devil. These heroes operate within a decay-saturated world, a world as much corrupted as that of Conrad's novels; yet unlike the heroes of the latter, they do not turn inward so much as upward or downward. In their attempt to transcend themselves through a knowledge of both God and the devil, they try to regain some sense of balance in a corrupted universe. In short, they seek God in what appears to be a devil-controlled universe. This is, in a way, their heroism.
Frederick R. Karl, "Graham Greene's Demonical Heroes," in his A Reader's Guide to the Contemporary English Novel (reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.; © 1962 by Frederick R. Karl), Farrar, Straus, 1962, pp. 85-106.
Sympathy with Greene's extra-literary purposes has no doubt been responsible for some exaggerated commendation of his work, and his endeavour to pivot novels upon the tardy awareness in the leading characters of the saving need of a Sense of Sin is not conducive either to artistic unity or to spiritual integration. The brutal violence of razor gangsterdom in Brighton Rock … makes an impression unlikely to be effaced by the confessional scene in the final chapter: there is no genuine purgation. The unreconciled though undeclared antagonism between Greene the fictional narrator and Greene the Catholic apologist produces both the tension and the over-strain of The Power and the Glory…, while the display of grubby human second-rateness in The Heart of the Matter … could be mistaken for a discarded early Somerset Maugham subject worked over by an earnest and anxious missionary. When his natural talent for entertainment is freed, as in his film scripts, from the burden of inexpert sermonizing, Graham Greene is an excellent teller of exciting tales.
A. C. Ward, in his Twentieth-Century English Literature 1901–1960, Methuen-University Paperbacks, 1964, p. 84.
The figure of the displaced person can, of course, be taken as a symbol of man's essential situation on this earth. In our time, the leading English novelist of the displaced person in this fundamental sense is Graham Greene. A masterly story-teller, he has learnt much of his narrative art from Stevenson and Conrad but not less from the film. And though he sees his characters in what he believes to be the fundamental human situation they are always given a strictly contemporary setting. He is in almost mediumistic rapport with the temper of the times….
Yet Greene is not by any means the special correspondent as novelist. Rather, the outer violence mirrors, as it were, the violence within the characters, gives a universal situation a local habitation. These representations of contemporary history as the element in which his characters live come as naturally to Greene as the use of the thriller in its simplest and most classical form, that of the hunted man, to express what seems to him the truth about man's fate…. The world he describes is very largely the world of rootless, beliefless urban man, and he describes it with compelling vividness and in terms of a fascinated loathing in which there is always an element of love entwined with the hate. He contemplates it and renders it with horror and with pity. As a Christian, he sees his characters, even in the less serious novels he calls entertainments, under the aspect of eternity….
Walter Allen, in his The Modern Novel (© 1964 by Walter Allen; published by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. and used with their permission), Dutton, 1964, pp. 202-03.
Graham Greene believes that the way out of the waste land is belief in God. He insists on the doctrines of his Church as a possible answer to the power and violence that characterize the political ideologies of our times. His personal convictions are matters of individual belief; yet what he says has universal meaning. He proposes a Bible of love and forgiveness, and he opposes it to the cult of the power addict. Ultimately he is a proponent of humanism, of dignity, and of right. His work has meaning because it transcends the limitations of his religious themes. Indeed, he is in his own way very much in the tradition of English letters. (p. 41)
Graham Greene has been accused by his critics and fans alike of "conniving" with the devil; he has been called a Manichaean, a Jansenist, a Quietist, an Existentialist, and other names as well. Many commentators have made an attempt to abstract his personal convictions from the world of his invention, insisting, understandably enough, on a prerogative of philosophical and religious speculation. But many of his commentators, critics, and fans have failed to understand the important fact that in his novels, and often in his entertainments, Greene describes a human condition, and that the experience of life developed within that human condition is not representative of a religious bias…. In the novels since Brighton Rock, with the possible exception of The Quiet American, Greene creates an experience of life—to use Maritain's phrase—in which the religion of the chief actors is Roman Catholicism. Like the people of Henry James, a writer whom Greene much admires, they make a place for themselves within the experience, exciting the pity and curiosity of the reader as they move within the boundaries of a problem that often seems to admit no earthly solution. If Greene were to force his people to react to the conditions in which they find themselves as good and true Catholics would, if the solution for their unhappiness were brought about in terms of the author's religious convictions, then indeed the results would be bad art—if art at all. But a novelist who retains his faith as a man can be allowed a point from which to explore evil. If a novelist glorifies good and refuses to recognize the beauty of evil, the beauty that Lucifer carried with him when he fell, and if the novelist attests only the validity of a religious dogma, he is, as Greene says, "a philosopher or religious teacher of the second rank."… Ultimately Greene concerns himself with the problems of good and evil not so much as they exist within the Catholic Church but as they exist in the great world. His novels deal primarily with the fall of man; and at least two of them, The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter, afford the possibility of heroic action. Although Catholicism pervades the plots of his novels, Greene is not concerned in justifying the activities of his religion. Greene chooses to deal with the seedy, the unlikable, the unhappy—those in whom he feels the strange power of God. (pp. 43-5)
The fact is, and it cannot be repeated too often, that Greene is a novelist first and last, not a theologian. His preoccupation is chiefly with the fall of man and with the possibility of redemption. So convincingly does he describe the human dilemma that his readers must comment on his people as though they were living beings. In just such a manner critics have diagnosed for centuries the madness of Hamlet. (p. 50)
[A] great many of Greene's fans aver that the best of Greene is to be discovered in the entertainments; in them he is intent on telling a good story, on keeping his readers in suspense, and on making the action which is, more often than not, a melodramatic chase, as original and exciting and breathtaking as possible. That Greene is a consummate storyteller and that he knows how to maintain that elusive factor called suspense make him a detective story writer of the highest caliber, the equal of Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, and S. S. Van Dyne, to name a few masters of the genre. (p. 52)
A. A. DeVitis, in his Graham Greene, Twayne, 1964.
Greene is one of those writers who have rescued the novel from Victorian melodrama and restored to it the dignity of tragedy. It is no longer a question of good people who keep certain principles and bad people who break them, but a jungle of misunderstanding and incomprehension where technical innocence is not enough….
The turning upside down that Greene has done is his contribution to modern literature. He has given us Christian stories that are truly adventure stories: exciting narrative in the tradition of John Buchan, Anthony Hope, and A. E. W. Mason, but with a difference. He has a power of storytelling reminiscent of R. L. Stevenson, with whose family he is connected; and the dualism which Greene sees and describes in human nature is perhaps not surprising from one with the same blood as the author of Weir of Hermiston and Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. [He is similar] to Henry James in his use of imagery … and Jamesian too in his use of the "shifting point of view" which enriches his presentation of character. But Greene is ultimately beyond discussion of "influences." He is not a great innovator in the form of the novel, yet he is not fully within any single tradition. If he shows a line of descent in English literature, it is rather from the morality plays. He takes those themes of human life which for many people remain forever in the gray realms of abstraction, and makes them visible. He parades theological ideas under the guise of suffering, striving, individual men and women.
Raymond Chapman, "The Vision of Graham Greene," in Forms of Extremity in the Modern Novel, edited by Nathan A. Scott, Jr., John Knox Press, 1965, pp. 75-96.
The Comedians is, in many ways, more complicated than Greene's previous novels, and the least Jansenistic and most optimistic. There remain the central preoccupations of his morality plays, but in this latest novel Greene achieves qualities of humility, humor and intellectuality that are mellower than ever before. He seems to have been moving toward this book since The End of the Affair, and certainly noticeably through The Burnt-Out Case….
[The] theme of farce and theatricality seizes the whole book. Brown talks incessantly of melodrama, personages, plot complications when he means life, friends and events. This element of farce works perfectly for the burden of this story which, more rationalist than Greene's past themes, turns on the question of identity—an identity which is not imposed from the outside by fiat, or even by God and His sacraments, but grown on the rocky soil of essential ambiguity and paradox. The central inquiry here is identity as vocation, as act.
Moreover, this novel is the most socially conscious of Greene's works; these people do not live in a state of theological evaluation but in the real political world. Here, the enemy of goodness is indifference, and though a Manichean evil still roams the world, it is a little frivolous and the most vivid struggles are between right and wrong, rather than good and evil. Brown would not be apt to describe the void of loneliness and disillusion in which he lives as a dark night of the soul. It is plain that Brown is in no way exceptional to modern man….
Greene's references and emphasis have changed somewhat but not on one central fact. There is still no escape from the vocation to will, act, love, to be sanctified…. There is much in Greene, even some of the characters, that has scarcely changed. What has evolved is a way of looking at the world, which makes it possible to see more, a view which reveals the world as filled with farcical, impertinent, confusing strains. His tone has become more humanist less dogmatic, more compassionate, less arrogant.
Alice Mayhew, "The Comedians," in National Catholic Reporter, March 30, 1966.
The popular image of Greene as a master technician with a crucifix hidden behind his back (or up his sleeve) obviously will not do. But his work does not fit into the categories that orthodox literary criticism has evolved in its appraisal of serious modern fiction. While the mass media of entertainment have figured as the villains in most contemporary cultural discussion, Greene has not only enjoyed popular success as a writer of thrillers and stories (like The Third Man) designed for the movies, but has drawn extensively on their conventions in his most ambitious work. In a period when the most influential school of criticism in England has proclaimed the duty of the novelist to be "on the side of life," Greene has spoken eloquently on the side of death. Belonging by language and nationality to a tradition in the novel based essentially on the values of secularized Protestantism, Greene has adopted the alien dogmatic system of Roman Catholicism, and put it at the very center of his mature work. Eschewing the "poetic" verbal texture, the indifference to "story," and the authorial impersonality of most of the accredited modern masters of fiction, Greene has cultivated the virtues and disciplines of prose, favored involved and exciting plots, and reasserted the right of the novelist to comment on his characters and their actions. (p. 4)
The irony resides in the fact that in Greene's stories the conventions of melodrama are handled with a sophisticated and very personal sense of values so as to displace the usual melodramatic distribution of sympathy and antipathy. We are led to identify, not with the honest and brave, but with the criminal and cowardly; not with the rich and beautiful, but with the poor and ugly; and there is rarely an unequivocally happy ending. (pp. 10-11)
In Greene's best writing … there is always a fruitful tension between two systems of value. As he neatly puts it in Journey Without Maps: "I find myself always torn between two beliefs: the belief that life should be better than it is and the belief that when it appears better it is really worse." In his mature fiction this dialectic is deepened by being placed in a Christian and hence "eternal" perspective; but in his earlier work we are conscious of a secular despair stifling creative achievement. (p. 18)
[Among] his own generation of British novelists it is difficult to find his equal; and … he has produced a number of novels that seem certain to live, by the force with which they embody a highly individual, genuinely challenging view of life. Finally, there is something disarming about an eminent author who has twice won New Statesman competitions by parodying himself. "Fame falls like a dead hand on an author's shoulders." Greene has written; but few have borne its weight with more self-possession than he. (p. 45)
David Lodge, in his Graham Greene ("Columbia Essays on Modern Writers," Series, No. 17), Columbia University Press, 1966.
Greene's evil is something which belongs to childhood and adolescence: it is associated with the school bully, the sadistic or perverted schoolmaster, and a figure which might have come from a "horror comic" or a horror film: "the man with gold teeth and rubber surgical gloves." The absence from the novels of any compelling apprehension of evil in the Jamesian sense, or the presence of an evil which is symbolized, significantly, by the juvenile delinquent and the "spiv" explains our feeling that the novels somehow lack the mature approach to experience that we find in the great writer. (p. 10)
[It] was Brighton Rock that established his reputation as one of the leading English novelists of his age…. In all the novels which preceded it, the decaying social system and its corrosive effect on the characters are described in purely secular terms. In Brighton Rock the world of gangsters, juvenile delinquents and "spivs" is no longer merely the world of gangsters, juvenile delinquents and "spivs": it is identifiable for the first time with what has been called "the fallen world." The characters are not simply misfits or outsiders or even criminals: they are felt to be sinners. A new dimension has been added to Greene's fiction. (pp. 15-16)
Greene's subject, like that of any genuinely serious novelist, is the human condition: the fate of man in a world in which the consequences of original sin are rampant, and the redemption of the sinner through suffering. For the purely secular approach of the earlier novels has gone. He is no longer concerned with mere social decay in a religionless world; the disasters are the results of sin and must be atoned for by suffering. (pp. 16-17)
I … have a number of serious reservations … about the quality of the religion in Greene's novels and its responsibility for what I am bound to consider artistic failings…. The kind of religion that we find in The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and A Burnt-out Case is seen in the first place as a highly emotional charge, creating an atmosphere in which theological problems, or rather moral-theological problems, are bandied about, in which religious standards are constantly evoked only to show how very far short of them the behavior of the protagonist falls, in which familiar dogmas are given a new and sometimes highly disconcerting look as when, for example, redemption appears to involve, or to be confused with, a Catholic suicide.
It follows that far from being the world of humdrum, conventional religion, the world of Graham Greene is the world of a highly idiosyncratic religion. His aim in the main religious novels is apparently to take us behind the scenes, to discover special virtues in people whose conduct is invariably at odds with their profession. In this way he gives the impression that it is somehow the idiosyncratic, the personal, the morally unorthodox, which is pleasing to God. His religion is very much the religion of the fallen world, but the fact that religion is religion gives the novels their supercharged atmosphere. (pp. 17-18).
Greene is the author of four plays which have enjoyed professional production in Britain and the United States. The Living Room was the first of the four and it seems to me to be the best, but none of them is of the caliber of the most successful of the novels and none adds anything of importance to what is known as the author's "message." (p. 38)
Martin Turnell, in his Graham Greene ("Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective), Eerdmans, 1967.