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Greene's Exploration Of The Paradox Of The Sinner Is Often The Saint

2644 words - 11 pages

Greene's Exploration of the Paradox ofThe Sinner is Often the Saint

"The Sinner is often the Saint" - In order to come to terms with this
paradox the reader must be aware of the definitions of the words
'sinner' and 'saint'. As it is understood today, a 'saint' is one who
transgresses God's known will. Greene uses the character of Scobie in
his novel 'The Heart of the Matter' to explore the paradox in the
above statement. However, once the reader is quite aware of these
definitions, it can be said that Scobie is a mixture of both, and this
concept is implied implicitly through the paradox itself.

The initial introduction of Scobie in the novel, is presented by other
characters, which produces an emphasis on the importance of how others
perceive him:

"…If I had a wife like that, I'd sleep with niggers too…Poor old

This introduction immediately suggests that others feel that he does
not deserve his situation (in this case the situation of his
marriage), thus highlighting his 'saintliness'. The other characters
in the novel look unto him as 'Scobie the Just' and feel that he is
trustworthy, honest and respectable. Yusef the notorious Syrian in the
novel is among these characters. Greene uses vulgar and harsh imagery
to surround him, and to parallel the crudeness and wickedness that
lies within the character:

"Just over the window there was a defective gutter which emptied
itself like a tap…the murmur and the gush. Scobie lit a cigarette,
watching Yusef."

Although he is seen as the embodiment of evil, he does not fail to
recognise the good in Scobie, and is desperate for his friendship:

"My friendship for you is the only good thing in this black heart…"

It is this love, which Yusef has for Scobie that also represents a
paradox to mirror the one seen in the title, that one so evil, a
'sinner', can acknowledge the existence of a 'saint'.

Another method, which Greene has used to highlight the 'saint' in
Scobie, is by contrasting his nature, to the nature of other
characters in the novel. Once the reader is introduced to his wife
Louise, it becomes obvious that she is a 'snob'. Even though it is the
colonial context of the book that suggests the creation of this
snobbery, Scobie has chosen to rid himself of it and appreciate his
surroundings and the indigenous people that dwell within it:

"…He doesn't seem to see the snobbery, and he doesn't hear the

Whereas most of the English colonists show evidence of suffering the
tensions that the war has brought about, and see Sierra Leone and its
sultry climate as a cause of their boredom, conceit and corruption,
Scobie values the beauty around him and feels the country is
fascinating beyond its surface of hostility:

"The magic of this place never failed him: here he kept his foothold

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