Martyrdom and self-sacrifice in the Catholic novels of Graham Greene
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The religious acts of self-sacrifice and martyrdom, rarely identified or discussed in works of criticism on Graham Greene's fiction, play a significant role both as a central theme and as a climactic action in his Catholic novels. Greene utilizes these sacrificial acts as the means to reveal the complex and often paradoxical nature of his characters in their relationship to God and to men. In his pre-Vatican II novels, Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, and in his post-Vatican II novels. The Honorary Consul and Monsignor Quixote, the challenging demands of the call to self-sacrifice and martyrdom not only represent a key religious theme but also shape the essential dramatic conflict in the crisis of faith that ensnares his characters. It is precisely from the personal decision to accept or reject the call to perform the acts of self-sacrifice and martyrdom that Greene's characters evolve and his narratives attain their metaphysical dimension. The unique response of each character to this call of grace to self-sacrifice becomes the climactic act of his or her human experience of faith as well as the action that unifies all of Greene's themes concerning the predicament of mankind in a fallen world. This thesis analyses both the personal response of the characters as it is conditioned by their particular situations, and the recurring elements of vocation, freedom, love and the imitation of Christ that become apparent in each case.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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