Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

West African colony

West African colony. Unnamed British colony in West Africa, but probably modeled on Sierra Leone, in whose colonial service Graham Greene worked during the early 1940’s. Major Scobie, his novel’s protagonist, is a deputy commissioner in the colony’s police service and works out of the colony’s chief port city. The secretariat for which he works represents British imperial control. Juxtaposed with the British presence are the enticing young African women who sit at the windows of the high school, and black clerks who move “churchward” with their wives in brilliant dresses.

In this mixed setting, Scobie goes past the secretariat to meet the commissioner at the police station and learns that he has again been passed over for promotion, despite his fifteen years of service with exemplary integrity. Instead of accepting any of the usual options offered to an officer in his position, Scobie refuses to resign, retire, or transfer to another colony; he wants to stay because he “likes the place.” He knows the colony so well that he has no need of maps because he carries the “whole coastline” in his mind’s eye. However, his disappointment at being denied promotion combines with the lassitude of the tropical colony to change him in ways that ultimately lead to his destruction.

Scobie’s house

Scobie’s house. House originally built for a Syrian trader near a swamp in which...

(The entire section is 564 words.)