Despite his difficulties in writing The Honorary Consul, Graham Greene considered it his favorite novel, partly because of the success he felt he had achieved in showing a believable change in Dr. Eduardo Plarr’s character. One of the more important themes treated in the novel is the idea of commitments, both personal and political. Plarr is presented early on as a man incapable of forming a commitment. His relationship with Clara, the wife of the honorary consul, Charley Fortnum, is only one in a long line of affairs. He does feel a strange attraction to her, finding it difficult to get her out of his thoughts, but it is not until the novel’s end that he acknowledges deeper feeling for her. His jealousy when he realizes how Fortnum loves his wife indicates that he, too, has begun to love her.
Plarr admires Rivas for his political commitment and his willingness to go to such extremes as political kidnapping to achieve his goals. Like several of Greene’s other protagonists, Plarr is reluctant to help the kidnappers, but he does act, largely because he is interested in the fate of his father, whose freedom is part of the exchange deal the guerrillas hope to arrange. By the time he learns about his father’s death, Plarr has other reasons for aiding the kidnappers: He wants to make Fortnum as comfortable in his captivity as possible (perhaps out of a sense of guilt he feels for his affair with Clara), and he wants to see his friend Father Rivas and the other kidnappers survive the experience.
Another important theme in the novel is fatherhood. Plarr is motivated to become involved with the kidnappers because of a commitment to a father he...
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