By Murray Roston (auth.)
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Extra resources for Graham Greene’s Narrative Strategies: A Study of the Major Novels
The priest comes to realise The Power and Glory 39 that venial sins such as impatience, a trivial lie, or having ignored a fast day – the kind of sin usually recited by the pious in the confessional – could cut one off from grace more effectively than the worst malefactions. He himself, he comes to recognise, when comfortably installed in his parish before the revolution, had really loved no-one, while now, after having fathered a child, he had learnt to empathise with the sinners of the world, to feel a deep kinship with and love for the supposed dregs of humankind, of which he sees himself to be a member.
It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man. ’3 We may add that a stanza such as the following, authorised by its inclusion in the official Church Hymnary: Looking upward every day, Sunshine on our faces; Pressing onward every day Toward the heavenly places. 4 By that criterion, Greene’s preference for individuals haunted by a conviction of postmortal damnation over those assured of their eternal happiness should be seen not as an offence against his adopted religion but as fully warranted exploration of those religious struggles and disquietudes that orthodoxy often prefers to ignore in the interests of advocating righteousness among its simpler laymen.
For them, as for the religious existentialists, the individual, although bound by the demands and pressures of society or faith, is not absolved from the obligation of personal moral responsibility, from assessing his situation in the light of his or her personal beliefs even if those conflict with the norms. Among the most influential of religious existentialists at that time, Martin Buber, in advocating the need for an intense I–Thou relationship with God, reduced the observance of ritual and formal doctrine to minor status: Only out of a personal relationship with the Absolute can the absoluteness of the ethical coordinates arise without which there is no complete awareness of self.
Graham Greene’s Narrative Strategies: A Study of the Major Novels by Murray Roston (auth.)