Faith and doubt in Western literature.
The setting is in a British colony of West Africa where the main character, Major Scobie, is a policeman during WWII. As a convert to Catholicism, Mr. Greene created this fascinating study of a man who questions his faith as a Catholic. While Major Scobie was raised to be devout, he begins an affair with a shipwrecked widow, Helen, where they both find passion veiled in pity. Major Scobie’s world begins to crumble over his conflict between faith and doubt, passion and conviction. You see, Scobie is married to a shallow and awful woman that only encourages him to pursue Helen for the life he can’t have with his wife, Louise.
The deconstruction of this man occurs throughout the novel where every step he takes is further and further away from a virtuous life and closer to his more instinctive, animalistic side. Where Scobie started his affair out of love, he remains with her out of pity. Mr. Greene reveals a vast score of emotions that Scobie feels over his need to be noble and sacrificing for others. Because of this, the Major decides that the definitive sacrifice for him is to commit suicide. The thing is, he’s so methodical about planning it because he wants to spare everyone around him any pain. People who love you forget you the second you die. Scobie’s words, not mine.
The most passionate aspect of Scobie is his need for understanding and his religious drama. Scobie yells at God, he feels he believes in God, yet doesn’t comprehend any of it from an emotional position. Life is a living hell for him, and the women surrounding Scobie are projections of his disassociated state of being. Are his questions existential or are they deep and true?
Rating: 4 stars
Title: The Heart of the Matter
Author: Graham Greene
Release Date: 1948
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