Most authors attempt to write stories that will impress upon the reader some idea or emotion in order to bring about change. Graham Greene writes stories that, rather than impose the idea upon the reader, pull a reaction out of the reader whether he wants to react or not. The stories he tells shock the reader and cause him to question how people or a situation could possibly be as it is. Often, the reader is a little disturbed and upset after reading Greene?s stories. There seems to be no point to them, but they shake the reader and draw out his feelings.
A prime example of Greene?s shock story is ?The End of the Party.? In only a few pages Greene sketches out two young boys, and immediately the reader sympathizes and almost loves them. And then at the end of the story, when one is dead and the other is left devastated and confused, one cannot help but feel devastation and confusion right along with Peter. There is no explanation as to why such a small fright killed Francis, or why Francis? fear still beats inside Peter?s chest, and so the reader feels ?off? and disturbed, and questions the whole story looking for some trace of meaning.
Apparent in his stories is the idea that life is precious and extremely valuable. ?The Wedding Reception? makes this point very bluntly and doesn?t leave much for the reader to guess at. At the end of the story Daintry simply states, ?A man?s dead. He?s irreplaceable too.? Even though this theme doesn?t seem apparent in ?A Shocking Accident,? it is present if one considers the confusion they have at Jerome?s tearless and emotionless response to the death of his father. And then again the puzzlement they experience as Jerome and later his bride-to-be ask about the pig. To the reader the accident is so trivial and senseless, and kills Jerome?s father long before his time, leaving a wasted life behind. The reactions of the reader should cause him to think about what devalues life so in the eyes of the characters.
This theme is again apparent in The Third Man. Harry Lime is willing to illegally distribute a watered down form of penicillin that kills people so that he can have a lot of money. As I read this, Lime?s complete lack of compassion for other humans struck me as hideous. I had a hard time accepting that anyone could be so cold and evil. However, Greene was able to draw me into the scene and make Lime?s cold-heartedness believable. As a matter of fact, Greene handles such hard to believe issues quite well. There is never a sense that the story is too far out to be true. His characters are vivid and his settings are real. I was transported quickly to the worlds of his stories, and was disappointed when I had to leave.
Greene?s style is smooth, yet not simple. The reader must pay attention to what is being read or he may miss important details and key events in the story. His plots are far from shallow, and a lot of wisdom and insight can be gathered from the things he writes. However, his Christianity is very low key. There are very few allusions to God and Christianity in his writing. However, I think that this is what gives depth to his writing; he is not displaying his values in neon lights. Rather they are a part of the story in the same way that they should be a part of a person.