Criticism

“Catholicism: Graham Greene’s Pattern in the Carpet” from Graham Greene’s Catholic Imagination by Mark Bosco
Mark Bosco is the leading Graham Greene scholar writing and publishing today. His book Graham Greene’s Catholic Imagination, while not an easy read, provides the best in-depth survey of Greene’s Catholic theological thought throughout his publishing career. The linked selection contains chapter one of the book, which offers a good introduction to the book and summary of main themes discussed by Bosco throughout the rest of his scholarship. In short, Bosco suggests that Catholicism for Greene was like the “pattern in the carpet” that you couldn’t really see and understand until you took a step back. While not the main theme or point of his novels, Greene used Catholicism as a framing reference and backdrop of thought for the conflicts, decisions, and interior life of his characters. Though this selection does not specifically mention The End of the Affair, its complex evaluation of Greene’s theology provides a must-read for anyone interested in the Catholicism in his work.

“Chapter 4: Faith and Doubt” in Saints, Sinners, and Comedians: The Novels of Graham Greene by Roger Sharrock
Before Mark Bosco, Roger Sharrock provided the definitive criticism of Graham Greene’s Catholicism in his Saints, Sinners, and Comedians: The Novels of Graham Greene. This chapter in particular discusses Catholic themes in all of Greene’s published work, though focusing primarily on his four “Catholic novels.” Sharrock sees The End of the Affair as the beginning of Greene’s digression away from Catholic themes and more toward a general humanism. He asserts this argument through an analysis of emphases and applications of religious themes within the novel, as well as the presentation of the characters and narrative.

Chapter Three: Religion and the Novel” from Understanding Graham Greene by R.H. Miller
A comprehensive review of all four of Graham Greene’s Catholic novels, including an insightful section of the religious themes in The End of the Affair. Miller also evaluates in detail the affect of the first person narrative technique on the development of religious themes in the novel. A good general discussion of Catholicism in Greene’s major fiction.

“Religious Aspects in the Novels of Graham Greene” by A.A. DeVitis, from Religion in Modern Literature: Essays in Theory and Criticism, edited by G.B. Tennyson and Edward E. Ericson, Jr.
DeVitis provides a helpful summary of the development and decline of Catholic themes in the novels of Graham Greene. Evaluating Greene’s Catholicism through his first novels to the last, the critic presents Greene as an author moving from Catholic theology into a more general humanism, his main concern. This timeline, along with a summary of the responses of contemporary and modern religious figures and other critics, provides an insightful evaluation of Greene’s relationship with Catholicism in his works.

“The End of the Affair” by Ian Gregor, from Graham Greene: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Samuel Hynes
This review by Ian Gregor was published soon after the publication of Greene’s The End of the Affair and represents a common critical reaction to this last of the author’s Catholic novels. As a contemporary review, it also provides a unique look into the perspective of Greene as an author at the time of the novel’s publication, without the critical oversight of criticism produced considering the entirety of his career after his death. Gregor also makes some interesting observations concerning Greene’s interaction with religious themes in the novel.

“Graham Greene” by Francois Mauriac, from Graham Greene: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Samuel Hynes
While short and not specifically dealing with The End of the Affair, this article is a fascinating insight into how Greene was considered by fellow Catholic writers, specifically Mauriac, who was a French contemporary of Greene also considered to be an influential Catholic novelist. Since the works of Mauriac and Greene are often compared, it is interesting to read how Mauriac himself saw Greene and asserted differences in their theology and religious goals in fiction. Mauriac’s evaluation of Greene’s relationship with Catholicism provides an important point of reference in understanding religious themes inThe End of the Affair.

“Catholic Themes: The Divers Moments of Nature and Grace” from Faith and Fiction: Creative Process in Greene and Mauriac by Philip Stratford
This book chapter provides a wonderful summary of both Catholic influences and themes in the work of Francois Mauriac and Graham Greene. While Mauriac wrote slightly before Greene and was born a Catholic as opposed to Greene’s conversion, Greene was notably influenced by his French contemporary. Also, a comparison of the two helps to illuminate their common religious themes as well as the differences, sometimes great, in their applications of those themes in narrative. Providing a helpful summary of Greene’s Catholic life both personally and in publishing alongside Mauriac, Stratford offers an extremely helpful frame of reference for any religious evaluation of Graham Greene’s novels.

“Chapter 6: A Catholic Novelist?” from Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel by Bernard Bergonzi
Though it does not go in depth into the Catholic theology of Greene’s novels, this chapter of Bernard Bergonzi’s book on Greene provides a good review of the author’s Catholic novels, particularly The End of the Affair. In discussing its reception, influences, textual changes, and most importantly, Greene’s own statements about the novel, the critic offers the reader a short though helpful look at the book.

“Saint Catherine, von Hugel, and Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair” by David Leon Higdon
This article discusses the influences of Catholic writer Baron von Hugel on Graham Greene, specifically The End of the Affair. In particular, Higdon finds commonalities between von Hugel’s propositions on personhood and materialism and Greene’s development of the character of Maurice Bendrix. Bendrix, argues Higdon, narratively works out some of the thoughts of von Hugel, specifically the idea that even staunch materialists may be converted by the simple accumulation of “coincidences” that point them to faith. Though narrow in focus, this article provides helpful information about Greene’s Catholic influences and how they have been approached in The End of the Affair.

“‘The Power and the Glory’ to ‘The Honorary Consul': The Development of Graham Greene’s Catholic Imagination” by Mark Bosco
Mark Bosco, as the leading Graham Greene scholar today, provides a helpful guide to not only understanding Greene’s Catholic faith, but also how it changed over time between the earliest and latest of his novels with Catholic themes. Bosco argues that notable differences can be observed in Greene’s theological perspectives and emphases over time, brought about by life experiences and shifting social, political, and religious contexts. While this essay does not specifically address The End of the Affair, it is certainly a significant resource for a study of the religious themes in any of Graham Greene’s work.

“Graham Greene: Catholicism in Fiction” by Charles I. Glicksberg
In this essay, Charles I. Glicksberg provides a helpful summary of Greene’s religious themes and emphases in his most prominent Catholic novels. Providing brief plot summaries of Brighton RockThe Power and the GloryThe Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair, Glicksberg is particularly interested in how Greene addresses what this critic sees as the central difficulty of religious thought in modern fictional works: the balance of postmodern philosophy and Catholic doctrine. Glicksberg highlights in particular Greene’s fascination with the idea of human sinfulness. According to the critic, Greene manages to avoid “pamphleteering” by focusing on the dark and dirty reality of humanity in all its failure and suffering without providing many easy answers for how one can easily deal with these shadows. Rather, Glicksberg emphasizes Greene’s pessimistic viewpoint, depictions of sinners as the true saints, and the unanswered questions concerning the eternal fate of his protagonists at the end of his novels. In this way, while Glicksberg provides an easily read summary of aspects of religious thought in Greene’s work, he focuses primarily on the darkness of Greene’s stories rather than on the parallel themes of grace and mercy also evident in the novels and highlighted by other critics.

“Graham Greene: The Burnt-Out Catholic” by Wilhelm Hortmann
As an orthodox Catholic critic, Hortmann evaluates the theological implications of Graham Greene’s Catholic novels and plays, tracing what Hortmann sees as a heretical decline from Greene’s earliest religious work to The End of the Affair. This last Catholic novel, Hortmann declares, displays a dangerously unorthodox attitude toward traditional Church teachings concerning grace and mortal sin. In particular, Hortmann takes issue with Greene’s elevation of romantic love over love of God, his interpretation of Greene’s sympathy for lovers doomed by Church doctrine. For the traditional Catholic, it is a mortal sin to divorce and remarry, leading to permanent exclusion from the Church. Greene in The End of the Affair, however, seems to side with the lovers and suggest that Church theology should be changed. Overall, though undertaken from a very narrow viewpoint, Hortmann’s essay serves as an informative source in painting a detailed picture of the Church’s reaction to the publication of this novel.

“The Quality of Graham Greene’s Mercy” by Robert A. Wichert
Though this article only briefly mentions The End of the Affair, Wichert still provides some potent insights into Greene’s presentations of the sinner as saint. Mercy in Greene’s novels, Wichert argues, points to the paradoxical reality of God saving the worst of sinners. With this in mind, Greene shows ordinary human beings coming into contact with mercy at their very lowest points, revealing the irony of God’s salvation of “the least of these.”

“The Problem and the Mystery of Sin in the Works of Graham Greene” by Thomas A. Wassmer
While not dealing specifically with The End of the Affair, this short article provides a concise and helpful summary of some of Graham Greene’s theological themes throughout his work. The critic summarizes Greene’s presentations of sin and grace, the paradoxical presence of God in sin and suffering, the compatibility of rational doubt with true faith, and the relationship between sin and suffering. This article would be a good place to start for any reader just embarking on a study of Catholic theology in Greene’s work.

“Catholic Matters in the Correspondence of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene” by James A. Devereux
An enlightening study of religious matters discussed by Waugh and Greene, both influential Catholic writers, through their long friendship and correspondence. While not a direct study of the novel, this discussion gives the reader illuminating insights into Greene’s personal faith journey and the reaction of other Catholics to the somewhat startling religious implications of his books, including The End of the Affair.

“World without End: An Approach to Narrative Structure in Greene’s The End of the Affair” by Ronald G. Walker
Walker takes a close look at the unique first person narrative structure of The End of the Affair, analyzing the way in which self-referential and mixed timeline structures help develop and support the major themes of the novel. Though not directly a discussion of Catholicism in the book, this article serves as a thought-provoking guide to the way Greene crafted the novel to communicate his themes, including his religious thought.

One thought on “Criticism

  1. Pingback: Welcome! | The End of the Affair

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