Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Lazarus theme, which constitutes the central mystery in The Potting Shed, derives from Graham Greene’s novel The End of the Affair (1951). In that novel, the hero, Bendrix, appears to be killed during a bomb raid. His married lover, Sarah, caught up in her love for Bendrix and her guilt over her adulterous affair, makes a bargain with God: She vows to give up her lover if God will restore his life. Bendrix does indeed come to life, and Sarah honors her vow.

The Potting Shed is an important work because of its skillful handling of a central theme in Greene’s work—namely, the importance of doubt in the development of one’s faith. In the light of the miracle in the potting shed, not only James but also his family and his former wife must reconsider the assumed certainties of their lives. The play also dramatizes a central irony found throughout Greene’s works: the development of Christian faith in reaction to the influence of obsessive atheism or rationalism. Like Greene’s novels, The Potting Shed takes a fundamental Roman Catholic belief, the resurrection of the body, and turns it into a human drama of the first order.