Graham (Henry) Greene 1904–
See also, Graham Greene Criticism and volumes 3, 6, 9, 14, 18 and 125.
English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, children's author, writer of travel books, essayist, and editor.
Greene has been a widely acclaimed and popular author throughout most of his long career. His prominence derives mainly from his novels, most of which pursue his obsession with the darker side of human nature within the context of a spy thriller or adventure story. Greene is described as a Catholic writer: the human struggle between faith and doubt and the despair and alienation of modern humanity are constant themes in his work. In spite of his many decidely Catholic concerns, Greene is an intellectual nonconformist. He rejects systematic adherence to the precepts of any contemporary religion or institution.
Greene is a skillful storyteller whose novels are suspenseful and entertaining. They swiftly move the reader into the physical action and moral conflict of the story. Greene's best-known work, The Power and the Glory (1940), is representative of his treatment of character and theme. Here, as in all of his fiction, thematic concerns are worked out more through characterization than through plot. In this story of the persecution of a priest by a police lieutenant, Greene pits political and secular conventions against spiritual and religious ones. Effectively avoiding the use of stereotype, Greene portrays both men as whole persons. The priest, like the police lieutenant, is a complex character capable of both good and evil acts. Critics consider such characterization as evidence that Greene is a writer of great depth. For him, the sinner is often the saint, the idealist, a danger.
Although there seems to be little contention about the significance of Greene's earlier work, in more recent years his status has been questioned. His recent novel Monsignor Quixote (1982) has been cited by some critics as an entertaining and well-constructed novel with a powerfully realized atmosphere. Other critics of the novel question its merit. Paul Fussell, commenting on Greene's esteem suggests that it is "only the current absence of Faulkner and Waugh and even Hemingway that makes Greene seem a novelist of consequence instead of, say, a fourth-rate Conrad."