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11-8 lecture Greene - We ended last time by discussing...

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We ended last time by discussing Arthur Rowe’s dream in the shelter, pages 53-55, where all his attempts to go back to the bucolic rural world of his childhood are thwarted, even in his dreams. Dream fails in three different ways: --he ends up bringing his present back to his past, in his need to explain himself to his mother: and his failure to get her to grasp what he’s saying shows the unbridgeable distance --he relives the upsetting experience with the rat --recalls pain and violence --shows that childhood was already tainted --reminds him and us of his extreme pity and intolerance for suffering, and thus what happened with his wife (and see page 16) --he is in search of home, and not only can’t find it, is told that he cannot escape his current horrors: “This is home. There isn’t anywhere else at all.” Childhood memories/childhood reading (76-77) “In childhood we live under the brightness of immortality—heaven is as near and actual as the seaside. Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and as faultless as a clock.” “Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen, and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood—for those promised a world of great
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simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our own disappointing memories—of the V. C. in the police-court dock, of the faked income tax return, the sins in corners, and the hollow voice of the man we despised talking to us of courage and purity. The Little Duke is dead and betrayed and forgotten; we cannot recognize the villain and we suspect the hero and the world is a small cramped place.” (77) And yet when Arthur Rowe talks about thrillers, he is still talking of an escapist genre—where the thrill comes from temporary danger and suspense, but where we know the hero will triumph eventually. In Greene’s own version of the thriller there is no such certainty (as you’ll see in the last part of the book, and in Wednesday’s lecture). So you should be thinking about the idea that even in AR’s version of the horrible changed world, there is something naïve.
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