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The Human Imperative

A Study of the Novels of Graham Greene

by Stephen K. Land

July 2008
LC 2008001685
ISBN-10: 0-404-61595-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-404-61595-6
Clothbound $87.50

AMS Studies in Modern Literature, No. 25

“[A] lucid, intelligent and useful book. . . . Land’s study is clear and full of insightful analysis. . . . a fine example of how a detailed study of technique can point to meaning.”

—David Malcolm, Times Literary Supplement

“There is an old joke . . . that whereas Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, Bruckner wrote the same symphony nine times. . . . The achievement of Land’s study is to mount an exhaustively argued and ultimately persuasive demonstration that Greene’s novels do the same. For Land, the central message of Greene’s fiction is that while the human situation is irreducibly complex, individual moral action remains imperative.”

—Paul Vlitos, Modern Language Review

While many literary studies today focus only on a single work by an author, or on a single aspect of that author’s work, Stephen Land’s new study considers Graham Greene’s entire output as a coherent whole. Analyzing Greene’s novels thematically, as well as in terms of the writer’s development from “entertainments” like Orient Express or The Third Man to the more ambitious The Power and the Glory or The Quiet American, Land traces common threads of meaning through a chronological examination of Greene’s work, and compares characters and character types that span the range of stories.

As Land writes in his introduction,“The present study looks for those generalizations about Greene’s work which go beyond the merely adventitious and which may, in the end, be brought together to display a unified underlying pattern of ideas at the heart of his fiction.” What emerges is a critical portrait of one of the twentieth century’s major novelists as continually concerned with issues of love, religion, redemption, personal choice, and the individual’s place in society. We find Greene returning again and again to these and other themes, even as his characters become more fleshed out, ethically more complex, and mature in outlook.

Land’s broad, systematic reading reveals Greene to be a writer whose work reflects a continual, unfolding engagement with the human condition and an unending attempt to understand and realize the human imperative.

1.   Introduction
2.   The Heroes
3.   The Antagonists
4.   Greeneland
5.   Heroines
6.   Detectives and Villains
7.   Conclusion

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Land, Stephen K.
The human imperative : a study of the novels of Graham Greene / by Stephen K. Land.
     p. cm. — (AMS studies in modern literature ; no. 25)
     Includes bibliographical references and index.
     ISBN 978-0-404-61595-6 (cloth; alk. paper)
     1. Greene, Graham, 1904-1991—Criticism and interpretation.
     I. Title.
PR6013.R44Z6445 2008
823'.912—dc22                                                       2008001685