Year

2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts - Research

Department

School of the Arts, English and Media

Abstract

This thesis explores the interplay of war, innocence and experience in selected novels by twentieth-century English author Graham Greene. Greene mobilises the terms innocence and experience to explore them in the individual and in societies, social groups and cultures. I argue that Greene believes innocence and experience are qualities essential to the individual and to the collective. This thesis examines representations of individual and social or collective innocence and experience in various settings in selected pre-war, wartime, and post-war novels. I focus on how war affected Greene’s use of these themes from the 1930s into the 1950s. Thus, my primary concerns in this study are innocence and experience, rather than war as such. In my reading of the selected works I emphasise the importance of setting — wartime and geographical — to representations of the themes. I argue that there is a relationship between the themes in the individual and in society in the novels. The thesis discusses Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Ministry of Fear (1943), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951).

Individual innocence is an enduring theme in literature and it is constantly prominent in Greene’s work. Yet it is a subject that has not been amply covered in relation to Greene, despite some good studies to which I refer in the thesis. In this way I hope my work will add to and broaden the discussion of the themes in his writing and in literature more generally. The subject of social or collective innocence is also prominent in Greene’s work, yet this aspect too has not been studied in sufficient detail. Indeed, it has attracted much less attention than individual innocence. The themes are complex, fundamental and recurrent in Greene’s work. Innocence and experience are intrinsic qualities of human existence and worthy of study, and they are intrinsic in Greene’s work and crucial to his conception of people and places. Importantly, Greene’s portrayal of the themes is often linked to his representation of war in the works. War is presented differently in each novel and it affects the representation of the themes. This adds another dimension to my study. War, in various forms, affects individual innocence and is part of his characters’ experience.

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