Jung Hun Um

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



Graham Greene's best novels are marked by obsessions with moral dilemmas. Greene acknowledges the obsessions, noting that "every creative writer worth our consideration [ ... ] is a victim: a man given over to an obsession." He further observes that "a ruling passion gives to a shelf of novels the unity of a system." Most of all, Greene's unhappy childhood gave rise to his view of the world, which critics have called "Greeneland," as haunted by "seediness," a basically evil, hellish place of violence, brutality, atrocity, and injustice. This view was only reinforced by his travels to Africa and Mexico as well as by world events such as World War I and the Great Depression. Of relevance here are Greene's autobiographical works, A Sort of Life (1971) and Ways of Escape (1980), and his travel books, Journey Without Maps (1936) and The Lawless Roads (1939). This thesis is concerned with how Greene came to a religious belief not based on dogma or doctrine but on human understanding and love for suffering people in his life and in his novels. The first chapter discusses the origins and development of Greene's obsessions. The second and third chapters examine two novels regarded by most critics as his best works: The Power and the Glory (1940), set in Mexico, and The Heart of the Matter (1948), set in Africa. In both novels, the protagonists are tormented by irreconcilable conflicts between duty and conscience; both fight against abstract laws and dogmas; both end by sacrificing their own safety or peace for other people's happiness. The final chapter concludes that in his novels Greene emphasizes the inevitability but also the significance of suffering or sin in one's own life as well as in the lives of other people. Through the experience of suffering or sin Greene's protagonists attain understanding of and love for human beings as God's image.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 -- Criticism and interpretation Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 Power and the glory Greene, Graham, 1904-1991 Heart of the matter Moral conditions in literature Conduct of life in literature



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University