Critical Context

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Party Going was Henry Green’s third novel, one that many critics believed marked a shift from the seriousness of his earlier works to the triviality one associates with a Noel Coward play. Critical reaction to the work has been more positive in Great Britain, where its seriousness has been more readily seen, than it has in the United States, where, when it was first released in 1951, it was called a book as trivial, monotonous, and meaningless as the people and the incident described in it. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, however, particularly in the light of Green’s subsequent work, the book was given more serious attention.

Most critics suggest that Party Going is fully intended to be a book in which nothing happens. Green’s intention here is to create an absurdist novel which satirically exposes the hollow values of the London social set of the 1930’s. Critics also seem to agree on the importance of the broader metaphysical theme of death which the novel projects, claiming that it is a truly modernist work in which the characters are isolated figures detached from one another and from any unified value system that might give their lives meaning. Some have argued that the novel is, thus, an existentialist work, embodying the technique of Franz Kafka and the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre.

Regardless of whether one sees the work as a social satire or an existentialist novel, it cannot be denied that Party...

(The entire section is 408 words.)