SLIDE 1: We left off last time talking about amnesiac Digby’s “schoolboy rebellion” against Dr.
Forester: “He was back in his own childhood, breaking out of dormitory, daring more than he
really wanted to dare, proving himself” (122).
SLIDE 2: Digby, suffering from amnesia which “mislay[s] the events of the past 20 years,” is
reliving his childhood past, supplanting himself as hero in the romantic adventure stories, and in
the unambiguous system of morality of his childhood when he embarks upon his adventure to the
sick bay: “He was afraid of undefined punishments and for that reason he felt his action was
heroic and worthy of someone in love” (121).
It seems that in beginning of Book Three of the novel signifies a change.
SLIDE 3: Dr. Forester
tells Digby that he is actually Arthur Rowe and a murderer. It is after this realization that Rowe
begins the process of remembering, in which his “horrible memory, stirred, crystallized,
dissolved…” (138) with detective Prentice. And it is after this realization that Rowe sees himself
differently: “he sat with his hands between his knees in a dull tired patience; he wasn’t
important, he hadn’t become an explorer; he was just a criminal” (135). The hero of Arcadia, we
are left to believe, is no more.
We can also look at this change in terms of how old Rowe conceives himself to be: he feels like
a schoolboy during his adventure to the sick bay, whereas when he’s with detective Prentice
uncovering the mystery behind the “Ministry of Fear” – the fete, the cake, Mrs. Mr. Sinclair,
Cost, Mrs. Bellairs and the séance, Mr. Travers, the bombs, the Hilfes, and Johns – he feels he
“grew up” and “learned that adventure didn’t follow the literary pattern” (163).
But is it all this simple? Is there such a clear cut line between the past and the present? Is there a
clear cut line between Rowe’s heroism and Willi’s (and the rest of the fifth column, “Ministry of
Fear” Nazi spies)?
SLIDE 4: Greene has already suggested that it is not so simple: recall that
Greene argues in an essay that WWII was predictable and inescapable because it was the
culmination of historical cultural conditions: “Violence comes to us more easily because it was
so long expected—not only by the political sense but by the moral sense. The world we lived in
could not have ended any other way.”
Therefore we are inclined to question the binary relationships the novel sets up: