The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
The book The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene revolves around a set of incidents that give the flow of the story; the major incidents include love, war, adultery, morality and spiritualism, suicide, and betrayal. These major incidences have been highlighted in various ways. Spiritualism is introduced by the wife Louise, who is described as a devout catholic; the incident of taking communion in the church by Scobie and his wife, brings out the characters of the two people, Scobie commits a great sin of “taking communion without absolution,” this incidence is relevant in portraying the character of Scobie. This event also reflects the title of the book, as much as spiritualism takes care of the maters of the heart; it is evident that religion does not fully understand a person’s true matters of the heart. The deed of spiritualism has been used by Scobie, to fit his wife’s character. Another major incident in the book involves suicide, this happens when Pemberton, an inspector, commits suicide after failing to pay the loan. An incident of suicide is also noted when Scobie takes his own life in order to avoid misery of his wife and his mistress. Another incidence of suicide is when Scobie agrees to take up a loan for fear that his wife might commit suicide. These incidences of suicide are relevant in the book in laying emphasis on cowardice of some people. The incidence of suicide is considered to be the only solution to problems by some people; this theme is important in ending the character of failure. Another major theme, highlighted in the book, is adultery. It is portrayed in the character of Scobie, who is involved with a mistress when his wife moves to South Africa. Adultery is also portrayed in Wilson, who confuses Louise’s friendship with love. He still pursues the woman even after her husband’s death. Scobie’s mistress moves with another man after Scobie’s death; this incidence of adultery serves as a proof of never-ending nature of the vice.
The events of the book take place in Sierra Leone, in a moderate British colonial post. The time set is the Second World War period. The characters, in the book, are members of the police unit, mostly the British officers. The author used to work for the intelligence service in Sierra Leone, and thus, the setting of the book is familiar. The time and spatial settings of events have influenced the action in the book significantly. The surrounding of Louise makes her miserable and unable to make friends; the environment, around the woman, makes her uncomfortable and urges her on to migrate to South Africa.
The character of Scobie is full of dilemma; he does not know how to make assertive decisions. At one time, he appears to love his wife so much that he even sacrifices his own happiness to please his beloved woman. However, he also quickly forgets his wife and starts a relationship with another mistress. This indicates his lack of understanding of the true commitment. Scobie appears to be extremely gullible; at first, he even wondered why people commit suicides but, at the end of the story, he is convinced that suicide is the best solution to pain. Scobie appears to be emotionally unstable; he finds happiness in the world to be a foolish dream. Scobie minds other people happiness and even goes further to please his wife by taking a loan to cater for her passage. Scobie is not ambitious, even after being passed over for a commissioner promotion, he does not feel bad. Instead, it is his wife who feels bad. Scobie appears to be a pretender; he hides his true colors in order to please others. Scobie, however, turns to be a very honest person in his work and in performing professional duties. He does not accept bribes; however, once, his lack of assertion leads him to take a bribe in order to conceal his mistakes.
Louise, the wife of Scobie, is another main character of the book. She is described as a devout catholic. She is strong in character and very ambitious; she is interested in her husband’s career growth. The woman, however, is also rather selfish; part of the reason of why she is happy of her husbands intended promotion is her personal interest. Louise’s appears to be an escapist; she prefers to run away from her problems instead of confronting them. This escapism is what brings problems to her marriage, as Scobie gets a chance to be adulterous. A strong character of Louise is morality; she rejects Wilson’s proposals even after Scobie’s death.
The character of Scobie changes in the book; this has been used by the writer, to reflect the unstable nature and dynamism of a character. Scobie’s lack of firmness leads his degradation and suicide. Louise remains firm and tough in her decisions, as in such a way, she is not affected by suicide, which portrays failure. Louise has a free spirit, and she lets her husband know of her suffering in Sierra Leone.
The author is highly concerned about morality; he uses religion to back up and reflect his views. He has an attitude of “dying for other people’s sake mentality”; this is well portrayed when Scobie decides to die instead of bringing suffering to his wife and mistress. The author has given the characters a second chance to avoid damnation. The reader of this book has been given a chance to discover some facts without direct indication from the writer; for instance, the case where “the wife discovers that Scobie has been cheating”. The writer has used the tone of fear, in the book, through Scobie. The criticism of the church has been expressed in a harsh tone, to portray that the church does not necessarily understand the matters of the heart. “The church knows all the rules. But it does not know what goes on in a single human heart”. The author also establishes a harsh tone through the character of Louise, when she is objecting the priests words “He certainly loved no one else”.
The book is effective; I would rate it at 7/10 for effectively bringing out the themes in the book. The book extends its character to life after death, either in heaven or hell. The author has used similes and metaphors well, to present his ideas. For instance, the sentence “Yousefs boy delivered gifts to Scobie”. Another talented use of metaphor is “Ali was killed by wharf rats.” The book is a good reflection of the softer side of a man, his commitment, and love, “He would still have made the promise even if he could have foreseen all that would come of it”.
The book is, however, a harsh critique of the Catholic Church. The giving of communion to “unworthy” Scobie illustrates how the church is ineffective in dealing with its members. The sin of adultery has not been omitted in the book. In the end of the story, beside the described affairs, the reader gets to know that Helen also “moves on to an affair with another man”. The writer, however, is intended to eliminate this vice from the society.
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