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Discuss Greene's use of religion and religious imagery in 'Brighton Rock'.

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Daniel Henderson 15/01/02 Discuss Greene's use of religion and religious imagery in 'Brighton Rock'. 'Heaven was a word; Hell was something he could trust.'1 Religion is a significant aspect of Graham Greene's 'Brighton Rock'2. It gives the reader a chance to explore the religious beliefs and workings that take place in the mind of each of the characters. It also gives an immediate expectation of the personalities and behaviour of the characters. Religion is not only a matter of the character's beliefs, but is also an important factor in the dilemmas and situations they have to face. Whether through Hale's funeral and Ida's unconventional belief system, or Pinkie and Rose's Catholicism and under-age marriage, religion provides a backdrop against which the events of the book are set. Perhaps more uncomfortable however, is the suggestion of an inversion of the Seven Sacraments through which Pinkie passes - perhaps on his way to '...something he could trust'3. Hale's funeral appears to be one of the first important religious scenes. Its main purpose seems to be examining Ida's controversial beliefs and views, as well as creating grey areas surrounding what is right and wrong. Both before and after the funeral service Ida relates, 'I like a funeral'4. ...read more.


The priest states that 'Our belief in heaven, is not qualified by our disbelief in the old medieval hell'13. He is obviously denying the existence of hell, but Greene then subtly mocks this by describing how the '...coffin slid smoothly down into the fiery sea'14. This extreme contrast conjures up images of hell and damnation in the reader's mind. Within Brighton Rock, of course, hell is most closely associated with the two main protagonists Pinkie and Rose, both Catholic. To stop Rose from being able to testify against him for the murder of Fred Hale, Pinkie befriends and then marries her. As well as being under age, their marriage is a sham as Pinkie evidently despises her. 'God damn you, you little bitch, why can't you go back home for ever and let me be?'15 Obviously, getting married under age is against their religious beliefs and they both realise that they have committed a Mortal Sin and will go to Hell. Perhaps one of the reasons that Greene made Pinkie and Rose religious is because it makes under age marriage seem more shocking. Pinkie does not seem to be as worried about the idea of damnation, and perhaps this is because he knows he will go to hell for the murder of Hale. ...read more.


All of the Sacraments evidently centre around the main protagonist, Pinkie. Throughout, he is portrayed as a satanic, evil character. Even though it is made plainly obvious that he is religious, he seems to aim his views more at the 'darker' side of religion such as the belief in Hell. "Of course there's Hell, Flames and Damnation." "And Heaven too", Rose said with anxiety, while the rain fell interminably on. "Oh, maybe". The Boy said. "maybe".25 If it is hinted through these inverted sacraments that Pinkie is something of an anti - Christ figure, this is also suggested by the image of Pinkie in 'the Palace of Pleasure': ...with the smell of gunpowder on his fingers, holding the mother of God by the hair'26. Religion, therefore, seems to mean different things to different characters, even if Greene appears to mainly focus on Pinkies religious beliefs. As something of a satanic, antichrist figure, the reader is repulsed by him, but also drawn into trying to understand him and the way in which he views the world. This adds to the overall tension of 'Brighton Rock'. Rose's Catholicism, and Ida and Hale's differing brands of non-conformist belief only help to contrast with this - but they also serve to reinforce the feeling that in 'Brighton Rock','Heaven was (only) a word'27. ...read more.

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