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[236] The End of the Affair – Graham Greene


“And yet I could feel no trust: in the act of love I could be arrogant, but alone I had only to look in the mirror to see doubt, in the shape of a lined face and a lame leg—why me? . . . Distrust grows with a lover’s success.” [48]

Love is hate and hate is love. Hate multiplies upon the strength of love. What provokes this hatred is usually jealousy. In 1939, Maurice Bendrix cultivates an affair with Sarah Miles when he has in mind the4 idea to write a story with senior civil servant as the main character. But Bendrix is a very jealous man that once he is consummate in love he can feel no trust in his lover. He measures love by the extent of jealousy. It’s through the vicious cycle of love, doubt, and jealousy that he and Sarah have maintained an adulterous affair for five years, until one day Sarah leaves without an explanation. It isn’t until he hires a private detective to spy on her that he finds out the truth of her ending the affair. forays

You pimped with your ignorance. You pimped by never learning how to make love with her, so she had to look elsewhere. You pimped by giving opportunities . . . You pimped by being a bore and a fool . . . She wouldn’t leave you, so I became a bore, boring her with complaints and jealousy. [67]

Marriage doesn’t exist between Sarah and Henry Miles in terms of intimacy. She is only bound to her husband by the conjugal obligation. In complying with God, she makes a deal with God that if he lets Bendrix live, after the bombing of the building of their trysts, she will give up her lover. The End of the Affair is about faith—not just religious faith but the faith in one another in a relationship. Greene wrote this novel at the time he was questioning his own religious faith in the light of adulterous affairs. Sarah’s love for Bendrix transcends life because she would make a bet on her life in exchange for her love’s being able to live. I do not think Bendrix has destroyed Sarah, but that he is consumed in jealousy and distrust have somehow perfected Sarah’s love for him. That love, unfortunately, can only be will-o’-the-wisp.

I wanted Sarah for a lifetime and You took her away. With your great schemes You ruin our happiness like a harvester ruins a mouse’s nest: Ihate you, God, I hate you as though You existed. [191]

The tension that pervades The End of the Affair revokes from the interplay of doubt and faith, and Greene’s underlying message that human love and passion are inadequate for relieving suffering. The fear, insecurity, and jealousy that Bendrix uses to justify his love, which is nothing compared to what expansiveness of a love he is shown, in the end leaves him a man of unconsoled agony. This book is again fiction and literature at the best in telling a story about the irony of love.

193 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

11 Responses

  1. Yikes! Sounds just a wee bit intense! You’d never suspect with that cover. Jealously certainly is a ripe subject. If not for jealously, we would have almost no crimes of passion!

  2. Wow – read this with my book club almost ten years ago and remember very little. The reaction was mixed, but I didn’t have strong feelings for the book either way. Wonder what I’d think of it now…

  3. I loved this book. I dislike romance in novels generally, so I’m glad this was so much more. Interesting to see his take on someone jealous toward God. A great story, thanks for reviewing this oldie but goodie.

  4. I love Graham Greene! I haven’t read this one yet, but it is on my shelf.


  5. When I read this earlier this year, I was really impressed by how much Greene compresses into such a short novel, both intellectually and emotionally. I think you make a good point about this being a novel not just of religious faith, but also faith in others. I found it interesting that Bendrix’s love for Sarah is so consuming, he is so jealous, that ultimately he cannot accept her newfound religion because in some sense I think he views God as competition!

  6. At 193 pages I think I could actually read and finish this one!! Love your thoughts on it!

  7. This was my first (and so far only) Graham Greene novel and I thought it was a beautifully crafted tale that was somehow subtle and understated and yet packed quite a punch. I must read more Greene.

  8. It’s been some time since I’ve opened a Graham Greene novel, but he seems to be a complex, many-layered writer. Interesting issues about love and its complexities here.

  9. You have a good point about this novel and the author. I like what you conclude as ‘the irony of love’.

    English is not my mother tongue, but I really love The end of the affair. It is also the reason why I choose this novel for the object of my thesis. I’m using philosophical approach in doing the analysis of atheism and theism values in the novel. I need someone to discuss about my idea to someone who has read this novel. I need an opinion about what I think about the story of the novel. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks.

  10. I read this a very long time ago and apparently have forgotten a lot of it. I love Graham Greene’s style. I need to put this one back on the TBR pile. Thanks for the review.

  11. […] found a copy of The End of the Affair by Graham Greene on the table of the vacation condo in Kauai. Usually guests would have left behind […]

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