The just have to suffer: Emotions and religion in graham Greene’s the heart of the matter

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Graham Greene (1904-91) is critically-acclaimed as one of the best storytellers in the 20th century. Part of Greene's distinction lies in his depiction of the ever-conflicted emotions that plague human beings living in the secular world. This emotional complexity is intensified as the protagonist’s Catholic religion conflates with the sensual and sexual values sanctified in the mundane world. As a consequence, although Greene expressed many times his irritation at his being labelled a Catholic writer, Dorothea Barrett maintains that understanding the close connection between religion, politics, and the theme of betrayal in Green’s works is crucial. The alcoholic priest in The Power and the Glory (1940) can hardly reconcile with the dictates in the secular world. In The Heart of the Matter (1948), Greene presents Major Henry Scobie, an integral assistant police commissioner, who is involved in a triangular love relationship with his wife and a young widow in a West African costal town. Torn between his sense of responsibility and his passion, Scobie is invariably 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 by a terrible conflict of 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, and humanity and divinity, which are much more complex when given the fact that the story is set in a colonial context. I am interested in figuring out why this righteous protagonist has to suffer so much amid the unique political and religious contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


Chang, T. C. H. (2014, November). The just have to suffer: Emotions and religion in graham Greene’s the heart of the matter. Paper presented at the 22nd Annual English and American Literature Association Conference, National Chengchi University, Taiwan.


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


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