Sinner is the Saint in The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
The conflicts surrounding moral responsibility are outlined in Graham
Greene's 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter. The story outlines the
plight of a man of principle who is unable to fulfill his
responsibilities to himself, his wife, and God. Scobie, an upright
assistant commissioner for the police, has little promise of
improvement facing life with a small income, few friends, and a
malcontent wife. As he becomes further trapped in his situation, he
must choose between upholding religious and moral values or following
his heart. Scobie's futile attempts to please everyone lead to
damnation of his soul and his inevitable suicide.
Scobie?s initial character changed a great deal to become the man at
the end of the story. As a police officer, Scobie demonstrated
complete obedience to the laws he served under, and this attitude was
carried over into other aspects of his life. He was a man dictated by
rule, so he defined his life by his responsibilities. He felt he
controlled the happiness of his wife, Louise, and it was his duty to
love her. In religion, he followed all the Catholic values and
procedures, which he adopted for Louise. At this stage of Scobie?s
progression, seen in the beginning of the novel, he is only corrupted
by the lack of love in his life because of the loss of his daughter.
This event marked the beginning of the decomposition of his healthy
marriage to a dry relationship. The absence of his pure love for his
daughter caused Scobie to become more focused on his duties.
Scobie?s stern structure for living is shaken up as he progresses
towards his demise. His faith in his religion starts to seem as
though he is simply fulfilling the requirements of another duty. He
acknowledges the fact that he does not love Louise, and she similarly
recognizes this fact. This allows her to manipulate Scobie?s guilt to
get the things she wants. Her demands to go to South Africa are only
within reason if Major Scobie borrows money from Yusef, a Syrian
merchant well known to the police for accusations of diamond
smuggling. Scobie?s feels responsible to keep his wife happy and to
love her, and affection is demonstrated easier with enabling her to
take the trip. The loan endangers Scobie?s career and reputation, but
pacifies his wife.
The addition of love in Scobie?s bland life complicated his
situation. While Louise was away, Major Scobie falls into an affair
with Helen Rolt, a young widow who Scobie met as a victim of a
shipwreck. Scobie becomes enthralled in the relationship. Louise?s
decision to return home because of knowledge of the relationship and
Scobie?s obligation to keep both women happy forces Scobie to turn to
God. He places their well being before his own, leading to
self-damnation and a deeper plunge into the tangled string of emotions
and duties he is now in.
Scobie?s guilt for being unable to be loyal and to...