“The sinner is often the saint”, in what ways does Green convey this paradox in regard to Scobie

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In Graham Greene’s novel “The Heart of the Matter”, the protagonist Scobie is central to many themes. Scobie’s character supports many key issues such as Catholicism, adultery, corruption, responsibility and sin, which all play an important role in the novel. These are themes in many of Greene’s religious novels such as “The Power and Glory” in which the central character’s happiness is obstructed by this desire to do good and an inborn love for God.

It is traditional for Greene to adopt the themes of corruption, seediness, sickness, disease, lack of hope and cynicism within in his novels and stock characters, this has been named “Greeneland” among his critics. His other works such as “Brighton Rock” and “Power and the Glory” also portray this. Scobie is certainly a character who also fits into these categories and as such, remains one of Greene’s complex, ambiguous characters. A saint is often described as a person of exceptional holiness or goodness and Scobie could be seen as both.

R. D. Smith states in his book “Graham Greene: The Novelist” that “In Scobie we have a man no worst than most and better than many, who is betrayed by his natural inclination in a world of evil”. A sinner describes someone who transgresses God’s known will, or any principle or law regarded as embodying this. Peguy states that “the sinner and saint meets in him and sometimes it is impossible to tell one from the other. ” I believe Scobie is more of a saint than sinner; however weakness within Scobie’s character cannot be dismissed.

Scobie is, without a doubt, perceived by many of the characters in the novel as a honest and respectable man. The commissioner calls him “Scobie the just”, even Yusef, the very embodiment of evil can recognise goodness within him “my friendship for you is the only good thing in this black heart”. Ali, Scobie’s boy is said to “watch him with affection” and the colonialists or ex-patriots who exchange in “beastly talk” and prejudice against the black natives of Sierra Leone:” I hate the bloody niggers” prove to be in stark contrast to Scobie’s integrity and good nature.

He longs to have the respect of the Africans and uses their African dialect, suggesting that Scobie feels comfortable with the indigenous people:”Already he had begun to desire these people’s trust and affection”. Scobie deliberately uses simple language to portray this. Smith states that “it is this affection for the blacks and the love their country which really separates Scobie from other ex-patriots”.

On the other hand, it can be argued that Scobie’s attempts sustain this label arouse in him a feeling of responsibility for others, which prove beyond his power to control, leaving him looking a sympathetic character in contrast to Wilson and Yusef. Wilson, in contrast to Scobie, is a feeble character. Throughout the novel he chooses to believe the rumors that are told against Scobie. Where other people distrust these rumors, due to Scobie’s good nature, he picks out “the important detail” about him. Descriptions of Wilson with “his pale face” and “bald pink knees” further aide in establishing Scobie a much superior character to Wilson.

These descriptions create an image of a weak individual. Greene successfully reduces Wilson’s human nature to a level where nothing noble can come out from his actions. Yusef is also used to evoke greater sympathy in Scobie favor. Yusef is an embodiment of evil. He is a blackmailer and a criminal transporting illegal. Amongst all this both characters have a somewhat warm friendship. That Yusef can find a source of comfort in Scobie’s friendship shows that evil sees that superior unique quality in Scobie. Greene separates the novel into three main books.

The first focuses on Scobie’s relationship with Louise, the second on his affair with Helen and the third on Scobie’s downfall to his death. Although Scobie does inevitably commit adultery with Helen, which is in itself is considered to be a mortal sin by the Catholic Church, the relationship portrays that a certain amount of affection is conveyed to Helen via Scobie. She possesses a child-like nature that links her to his daughter: “She laughed now at this passion in a superior way: it was the only indication she gave him that she was grown-up, that she was- or rather had been- a married woman. Her innocent talk sparks much passion and interest within Scobie. Greene uses irony in this chapter to illustrate that this affair, being extreme in itself will result in ghastly consequences, “they were friends who could never be anything else than friends. ” The actual novel itself could be said to portray some characteristics of a tragedy. It is split into three main books, the first setting the scene and the plot, the second the build up and plans for the death of the tragic hero and the third, the actual death and aftermath.

Scobie can also be seen as a genuine tragic hero with his moral superiority causing his downfall and his feeling of responsibility leading to his death. Like a Greek tragic hero, it is this flaw that leads to his destruction and it’s not evil but error not mistake of action, but imperfection of character that leads to his downfall. Like a Greek tragic hero, Scobie is fully aware of his flaws: “No human being can really understand another, and no one can arrange another’s happiness”. Despite his acknowledgement of this, Scobie attempts to secure the happiness of others through the ultimate sin and the ultimate sacrifice.

It can therefore be argued that Greene intends Scobie to be a tragic hero, though not one of classical proportions. Scobie’s relationship with his wife Louise is wholly based on his instinct to pity her, and his belief that she is dependent on him – “this is what I’ve made of her. She wasn’t always like this”. Scobie not only avoids his wife physically, but emotionally. Mental stimulation lacks in their day to day conversations. Scobie “never listened when his wife talked”. Scobie fails to see that she is the mistress of her own destiny and this will eventually corrupt him.

However, Scobie does truly care for his wife. His love for her has been replaced with passion towards pity. “These were the times of ugliness when he loved her, when pity and responsibility reached the intensity of a passion”. Scobie feels no sense of responsibility towards the beautiful and intelligent as they can find their own way. Louise and Helen’s ugliness are therefore “handcuffs on his wrists”. Scobie’s profound desire to relieve pain is reinforced throughout the novel. Greene uses the motif of the handcuffs to suggest that Scobie is bound to the notion of pity and that he is metaphorically linked to this. He was bound by the pathos of her unattractiveness” suggests a sense of Louise’s physical repulsiveness; however he is attracted to her by this. The handcuffs also present the police system as ineffectual. The motif of the vultures, the scavengers of a rotting region, weaves as a reminder of death, decay and corruption, which overtakes the land and soon Scobie. The setting contributes to this reminder as it is presented as a place of corruption and decay, a channel of his misery. The extreme setting intensifies the desperation of Scobie and contributed to his discontent.

Imagery such as that of the “handcuffs”, “swollen dye-clogs” and “joint under meat cover” adds to this overwhelming picture of ugliness. The suicide of Pemberton illustrates that Scobie is overwhelmed by a quest for mercy and pity: “Unquestionably there must be mercy for someone so uninformed” because in his view there must be mercy for the innocent: “Even the church can’t teach me that God doesn’t pity the young… ” There cannot be damnation for those so young because he believes we cannot damn those who do not know or indeed understand.

This questions the teachings of the Catholic Church and Greene’s own reservations about Catholicism and mercy are under pinned. ” The church knows all the rules. But it doesn’t know what goes on in a single human heart. ” Scobie is human, and was only consumed by the desire to do good. Father Rank states at the end of the novel that Scobie “really loved God”. Scobie’s profound desire to relieve pain is reinforced throughout the novel.

Greene uses the motif of the handcuffs to suggest that Scobie is bound to the notion of pity and that he is metaphorically linked to this. He was bound by the pathos of her unattractiveness” suggests a sense of Louise’s physical repulsiveness; however he is attracted to her by this. The handcuffs also present the police system as ineffectual. The motif of the vultures, the scavengers of a rotting region, weaves as a reminder of death, decay and corruption, which overtakes the land and soon Scobie. The setting contributes to this reminder as it is presented as a place of corruption and decay, a channel of his misery. The extreme setting intensifies the desperation of Scobie and contributed to his discontent.

Imagery such as that of the “handcuffs”, “swollen dye-clogs” and “joint under meat cover” adds to this overwhelming picture of ugliness. A modern Christian reader may sympathise with Scobie’s dream of peace and a quest for mercy since these principles have become a more recent focus of Christian belief than previous attention on the idea of punishment and damnation. The reader is also able to visualise the pain and torment that Scobie subjects himself to. “He wanted to say, ‘Help me, Father. Convince me that I would do right to abandon her to Bagster.

Make me believe in the Mercy of God,’ but he knelt silently waiting: he was unaware of the slightest tremor of hope. ” Scobie is led to despair because he believes himself dispensable to their lives. It is because he cares for them so much that he decides to commit suicide. If he is deleted out of their lives then he believes it will result in some sort of eventual happiness for them. Clearly it is never Scobie’s intention to be a sinner- to transgress Gods known will, or any principle or law regarded as embodying this.

He is a good man but he manifestly fails due to his overwhelming sense of pity, and he portrays a lack of trust in a God that he submits he loves-“I’ve lost the trick of trust”. Scobie’s “monstrous pride” or arrogance also signifies weakness within Scobie’s character. His pride and arrogance towards Louise -“He had formed her face” is so influential he believes he has made Louise into what she is. However through this Scobie fails to realise that she manipulates him and undermines him by calling him “Ticki”. Scobie also pities God. ” Those ruined priests… consuming God in an absurd and horrifying ritual… was it even love, or was it just a feeling of pity and responsibility. ”

Another factor that signifies Scobie’s vulnerability is the spiral of corruption that he becomes inter-twined with. The process begins when he decides to burn the captain’s letter; a decision that will lead him to his eventual death. Although his motivation for burning the letter is good his action links him to the corrupt; “He had joined the ranks of the corrupt police officers… hey had been corrupted by money, and he had been corrupted by sentiment”. From this moment on Scobie has to resort to bribery and lies in order to save him from one situation to the next. Scobie is eventually led to despair as a result. In doing so he is forced to betray everything he believes in and stands for, with drastic consequences, such as the death of Ali for himself and those around him.

After Ali’s death, Scobie believes – “It was the first time it had been ashamed before him in all those years. Perhaps “only the good can commit the ultimate sin. ” As a criticism of Scobie’s character in the heart of the matter George Orwell states that “the horror of causing pain would not be an affair in the colonial police force”. What Orwell fails to add to this is that it is never Scobie’s direct intention to do so; a modern reader would also be able to understand this because of the overwhelming feelings of pity felt for Scobie, which are created by Greene in this novel. In his dialogue with God Scobie dies talking to God with “love” on his lips.

As a character himself, God understands that he is a good man: “I made you with love”, although Scobie portrays a lack of trust in God. Greene frequently uses religious imagery to convey that Scobie is never very distant from God, even in times of wrongdoing. The “broken rosary” in book two foreshadows Scobie’s betrayal of his true and royal friend, Ali. Greene conveys that even in a state of mortal sin his love for God never falters as he makes” one last attempt at prayer” after speaking with Father Ranks at confession. Scobie never completely abandons his relationship with God.

Greene makes this evident to the reader via the dialogues he has with him: “I’ve preferred to give you pain rather than give pain to Helen or my wife because I can’t observe your suffering… I know what I’m doing”. Scobie’s tortured dilemma could therefore be the result of his torment by his inability to reconcile the love of God with his love of human beings. The suicide of Pemberton illustrates that Scobie is overwhelmed by a quest for mercy and pity: “Unquestionably there must be mercy for someone so uninformed” because in his view there must be mercy for the innocent: “Even the church can’t teach me that God doesn’t pity the young… There cannot be damnation for those so young because he believes we cannot damn those who do not know or indeed understand. This questions the teachings of the Catholic Church and Greene’s own reservations about Catholicism and mercy are under pinned. ” The church knows all the rules. But it doesn’t know what goes on in a single human heart. ” Scobie is human, and was only consumed by the desire to do good. Father Rank states at the end of the novel that Scobie “really loved God”.

The reader observes Scobie at a pivotal point in the novel where he barters with God in the hope that the dying girl may eventually have “peace”. Greene uses imagery of Christ lifting the load of his cross as a simile to convey how the physical and mental burden of death affects both the dying girl and Scobie – “it were as if she were carrying a weight with a great effort up a long hill”. Witnessing the young girl die reminds him of his dead child, Catherine. He had always thanked God for sparing him from the agony.

This pivotal moment makes Scobie realise all human beings must “drink the cup of suffering”. In this scene Scobie conveys his virtuous characteristics, because his quest to bring the child peace by sacrificing his own could be considered to have actually happened through his own eventual death at the end of the novel. “‘Father,’ he prayed, ‘give her peace. Take away my peace forever, but give her peace. ‘” Just as Christ died to save humanity, Scobie will eventually believe that his own death will result in the greater good for those feeling hurt he has left behind.

Although Scobie fails to see the girl die, he comforts her and even relives the death of his own daughter, Catherine. – “This is what I thought I’d missed. ” It is never Scobie’s direct intention to cause any harm to anyone, but it is his over whelming sense of pity that sparks the trigger of his downfall. The structure and language of this scene is emotional, controlled and tight. Greene creates a powerful and dramatic moment highlighting the tension that will be created throughout the novel via Scobie’s bargain and God; it could be seen to foreshadow the dialogue Scobie will later have with God. I am never going to know peace again. But you’ll be at peace when I am out of your reach”. Within the religious context of the novel, Scobie’s main vulnerability is that he fails to trust in God. – “I don’t trust you. I’ve never trusted you. ” He is willing to commit the ultimate sacrifice because he tells God in his dialogue with him “I’ve preferred to give you pain rather than give pain to Helen or my wife because I can’t observe your suffering. ” Scobie even fails to trust God to look after Louise or Helen.

He believes “they are ill with me and I can cure them. ” Scobie believes he is outside Gods mercy because of his horrific sin. Father Rank cannot console him – “I was a fool to imagine that somehow in this airless box I would find a conviction… I think I was wrong to come Father. ” Scobie also receives communion in a state of mortal sin, – “to me that means – well, it’s the worst thing I can do. ” Scobie believes in mercy for the innocent but because in his own eyes or indeed God’s he has sinned profoundly, he is not worthy of mercy.

At the end of the novel Louise states that “he never had any trust in mercy – except for other people. ” To this Father Rank quite promptly answers “don’t imagine you – or I – know a thing about God’s mercy. ” This is an honest and surprising suggestion about the Catholic Church. Father Rank echoes Greene’s voice by assuming God and his God might not be inextricably linked – “the church knows all the rules. But it doesn’t know what goes on in a single human heart”. Scobie suffers tragedy because he is a decent and honourable man. He is also a commendable human being.

In the end he always strives to do his best, he clearly loves God because he has a dialogue with him. A sinner is somebody who is said to be estranged from God but Scobie is never isolated from God. Although Scobie fails to trust God and believes himself damned, he never completely abandons his relationship with him. His last words before his death reflect this: “I love you”. A sense that the sinner is at the heart of Christianity is created because as a Catholic Scobie is damned by his knowledge of knowing the difference between right and wrong.

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