The Human Factor Analysis
by Graham Greene

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The Human Factor Analysis

When writing an analysis of The Human Factor, there are several perspectives you could choose to take. The story offers rich exploration of multiple concepts such as age, racism and humanity, and your analysis could include one or all of them.

One approach to an analysis of The Human Factor would be a discussion of the racial tension, which the book touches on as part of Castle's motivation for leaking governmental secrets to the Communists. While Castle was in the Secret Service during World War II, his first wife was killed in the London blitz, and his guilt for failing to protect her is part of why he has such a strong sense of gratitude to Carson. Carson is the Soviet agent who helped him get his next wife, Sarah, out of prison after he broke apartheid laws with her. Apartheid was the system of racial segregation in South Africa, institutionalizing racial discrimination and ensuring the white population would be dominant over people of other races. To break apartheid laws was a serious crime.

Another perspective you could use in your analysis is the theme of youth and old age. Greene shows the fear of aging through the eyes of Maurice Castle, Doctor Percival, Colonel Daintry and Sir John Hargreaves. Each man has a different attitude about aging and a different strategy for coping. For example, Castle is distressed that he will not share old age with his younger wife, so he would rather get a different job as opposed to going into retirement.

Another approach would be a discussion of humanity. Maurice Castle is arguably the most human of the characters, basing his decision making on feeling he owes Carson, the Soviet agent who helped get Sarah out of prison. He makes these decisions even at great personal risk. Then we have Doctor Pervical on the opposite end of the spectrum, a cold, cynical man who does not even feel regret when his decisions lead directly to the death of an innocent man.

The Human Factor

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 17)

Graham Greene’s twentieth novel, The Human Factor, not only reminds us quite forcibly that at seventy-five the master is still doing what no other writer can do, but assures us that we probably need not fear that the novels he produces in his declining years will reveal a diminishing of creative energy, imaginative power, or moral force. The Human Factor shows little trace of the weaknesses of his last novel, The Honorary Consul: an apparent arbitrary use of point of view, a looseness of structure, an aura of contrivance, and predilection for theme-mongering.

If Maurice Castle is less memorable and Greene’s style less brilliant than the protagonists and style of his finest novels, one still feels the control of the supremely professional novelist who knows how to use an entertainment genre, the espionage thriller, as a metaphor of man’s basic condition: interdependence among people in love and hate, euphoria and fear, loyalty and betrayal, comradeship and loneliness, confession and silence, youth and old age, habit and chaos.

Greene uses alternating points of view to structure his vision of relationships that corrupt, and to generate the suspense that lures one to espionage novels. Maurice Castle, a double agent of sixty-two with thirty years in the British Secret Service, is the character through whose point of view Greene most often filters the action and his meditations on it. When we view events through the eyes of Colonel Daintry, a security officer within the Service whose assignment is to uncover Doctor Percival (the double agent who devises ingenious ways of disposing of double agents), and through the eyes of Sir John Hargreaves (the new commander who supervises the investigation and disposition of the double agent), we observe parallels among all four men; and our feelings for Castle, who is unable to perceive many of the parallels, are enhanced. For instance, each of them faces the specter of old age (as does Greene himself) and retirement. Their differing attitudes and strategies for coping give us more complex perspectives on the man...

(The entire section is 3,308 words.)