Friday, June 19, 2009

Evil Pinkie

The latest from Buzz and the Misfits:

"Last Wednesday evening, we met to discuss Graham Greene's novel, Brighton Rock. The novel marked Greene as a "Catholic author" and was the first novel in what came to be known as Greene's "Catholic Trilogy" (the other two novels being The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter).

In Brighton Rock, we meet one of literatures most troubling, truly evil characters, Pinkie Brown. Pinkie is a seemingly impossible guy to love. Sadly, his girlfriend Rose, accepts Pinkie as he is and loves him in spite of his cruel treatment of her and others.

In the novel, Pinkies nemesis, Ida Arnold, suspects Pinkie of murder and tries to convince Rose to leave him. A great insight into the nature of Good and Evil occurs in this exchange between Ida and Rose:

Ida tells Rose, "I know one thing you don't. I know the difference between Right and Wrong. They didn't teach you that at school."

"Rose didn't answer; the woman was quite right: the two words meant nothing to her. Their taste was extinguished by stronger foods--Good and Evil, The woman could tell her nothing she didn't know about these--she knew by tests as clear as mathematics that Pinkie was evil--what did it matter whether he was right or wrong?"

Misfit Don Wessel made a telling observation about the manner in which Greene depicts the evil that fills the pages of the novel and surrounds Pinkie. Don noted that Greene, unlike many present day authors, did not assign responsibility for Pinkie's destructive behavior to some collective activity or negative aspect of society. In other words, Greene was not a "social critic" who tried to blame society for making Pinkie a pathologically evil person. As Don observed, in Brighton Rock the final responsibility for Pinkie's self-destruction is charged, not to the slums in which he was raised, but to Pinkie's own free choice. Don echoes Cardinal Newman who said that the basic cause of evil is not to be looked for in society. Evil is to be found in the human race which is implicated in a "terrible aboriginal calamity." It is also found in the blasphemy that comes out of Pinkie's mocking mouth: "Credo in unum Satanum."

This is a tough book to read. It is definitely not a book with a happy ending. In fact, it has one of the most chilling endings in literature. Would I recommend the book to others? Definitely, especially if you are a Catholic. If you are a Catholic, you will understand Greene's perspective on Good and Evil.

Our book for July is C. S. Lewis's wonderful allegory of heaven, The Great Divorce. This is a fantasy novel which begins when the characters in the novel are shown boarding a bus in a nondescript neighborhood. The narrator soon realizes that he is being taken to Heaven where the passengers on the bus are given a terrible choice, heaven or hell. The book's primary message is presented obliquely by declaring, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" The narrator's descriptions of sin and temptation will hit quite close to home for the Misfits. Again, Lewis displays his great genius for describing the intricacies of vanity and self-deception in everyday life. This novel will show each of us the consequences of everyday pettiness.

If you have the time, please read C.S. Lewis's book, Mere Christianity as an adjunct to The Great Divorce. This is a recommendation and not a requirement. It will, however, give us additional material to discuss and frame the portrayal of heaven Lewis depicts in The Great Divorce.

Loome Theological books has a few copies available; otherwise, you can easily find both books on line at Amazon or B & N.

Finally, we will have a change of pace for our August reading. We have decided to read The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green. Misfit Druffner, now in Africa, recommended this as a perfect summer read. It is a classic story of social justice and outrageous cunning. As we know, Robin Hood is champion of the poor and oppressed. it is set in twelfth-century England and pits Robin and him men against the cruel power of Prince John and the brutal Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin takes refuge with his Merrie Men in the vast Sherwood Forest, emerging time and again to outwit his enemies with daring and panache.

Roger Lancelyn Green was born in 1918 and lived in Oxford, England at his family home in Cheshire, which the Greens had owned for more than 900 years. He loved storytelling and was fascinated by traditional fairy tales, myths and legends from around the world. He was a professional actor, a librarian and a teacher. His retellings include Egyptian, Greek and Norse legends, plus a retelling of Robin Hood. He also wrote many books for adults, including a biography of his friend C. S. Lewis, creator of The Chronicles of Narnia. Roger Lancelyn Green died in 1987.

Warmest regards,

Misfit Buzz"