John's Reviews > The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
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Mar 14, 08

bookshelves: novel, politics
Read in June, 2005

It’s hard for me to review The Heart of the Matter without mentioning The Power and the Glory, so I won’t even try. While many people think The Power and the Glory is Greene’s tragic masterpiece, I think the case could be made for this book. In a way, The Heart of the Matter is the reciprocal of The Power and the Glory – instead of leading a fairly villainous protagonist on a path to redemption through death at the hands of the ruling authority, it takes a basically good authority figure, the police commissioner Scobie, down a path to both spiritual damnation and public and private ridicule. I find it ironic that Scobie’s one abuse of his power, sleeping with a native, is but one of the many committed by the whiskey priest in The Power and the Glory, and the final act of each, suicide, is seen as heroic in The Power and the Glory, and quite pitiful in The Heart of the Matter. The is of course easily attributable to Greene’s Catholic obsession with redemption – the whiskey priest proclaims his sinful nature and the narrator forgives (and deifies) him, while Scobie (and the narrator) clings to his own essential goodness – thus the sin of pride is what ultimately prevents Scobie from either human or divine forgiveness. This is problematic at best and arrogant at worst for an audience unconcerned with godly redemption. I would fall into the godless swine category, which is why I find Scobie so much more likeable than the whiskey priest, and why I find his ultimate ruin so much more tragic. And if we’re rating tragedy, isn’t that the most important indicator?
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