Emotions, religion, and morality in Graham Greene’s The heart of the matter

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Graham Greene (1904–1991) is critically-acclaimed as one of the best storytellers of the twentieth century. Part of Greene’s distinction lies in his depiction of the ever-conflicted emotions that plague human beings. This emotional complexity is intensified as the Catholic religion conflates with the sensual and sexual values sanctified in the mundane world. Thus, although Greene frequently expressed his irritation at being labeled a Catholic writer, many critics maintain that understanding the close connection between religion, politics, and the theme of betrayal in Greene’s works is crucial. In The Heart of the Matter (1948), Greene presents Major Henry Scobie, an upright assistant police commissioner, who is involved in a triangular love relationship with his wife and a young widow in a West African coastal town. Torn between his sense of responsibility and his passion, Scobie is ensnared in love and guilt at the same time. Scobie’s emotional complexities, coupled with his troubled faith, paradoxically make him a heroic coward with tragic flaws as well as a sinner engulfed in a terrible conflict between passion and faith. This paper aims to discuss the emotional ambiguities of Scobie that arise from the conflations of love and marriage, pity and duty, humanity and divinity, evaluating the morality of Scobie and its implications. Copyright © 2017 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-392
Issue number1
Early online dateJun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


Chang, T. C. (2018). Emotions, religion, and morality in Graham Greene’s The heart of the matter. Neohelicon, 45(1), 379-392. doi: 10.1007/s11059-017-0385-x


  • Emotions
  • Religion
  • Morality
  • Graham Greene
  • The heart of the matter


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