Brighton Rock is a thriller. 'Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to kill him' (first sentence). It is also regarded as one of Greene's Catholic novels. The 'Catholic theme' is hard to discern at first and the last scene is supernumerary to the thriller plot. Though such criticism is in danger of applying an artificial structure to a book, there is a discernible transition in emphasis between the start to the end of the novel from thriller to 'Catholic novel'.
Greene wrote later that the first section of Brighton Rock should have been cut. If this were done, the book would begin with the scene between Pinkie and Spicer on the pier, before the arrival of Rose. The Quiet American, written later (1955), revolves around the murder of Pyle, which takes place before the start of the book. It provides greater scope for intrigue if the details of the murder are revealed indirectly. The identities of Pinkie and Spicer would certainly be more of a mystery if the first section were cut. As it is, it is clear from the very start that Pinkie and his mob are criminals. It is also soon clear the Rose is the innocent that gets 'mixed up' in the wrong crowd, and Ida is the amateur detective. These characters are all stock thriller personalities.
Cutting the first section would mean sacrificing a great piece of thriller writing. The actual murder of Hale is not described. The events that immediately precede it combine Hale's growing anxiety with a growing hope that, having found Ida, he is safe. When Ida leaves him, even for five minutes, the reader knows that something is bound to happen to him and the switch of narrator from Hale to Ida - who suspects nothing - supports this dramatic tension. Even when she returns to find him gone, she does not suspect for an instance that he might have been murdered. Her unsuspecting inexperience of the Brighton underworld is forced upon the reader at the very climax of the murder scene. The atmosphere that Greene creates is of a dark introvert Brighton underworld.
'... an air of determined and sober gaiety... With immense labour and immense patience they extricated from the long day the grain of pleasure... ' (6)
This is Greene's description of the Brighton Whitsun crowd, of normal people on a day trip to the seaside. Greene comments on this, 'I have never again felt so much a victim of my own inventions' (Ways of Escape, p.62) This world of distorted reality, whether set in Brighton or Vietnam (as it is in The Quiet American), has been labelled 'Greeneland'. It is a label, like that of 'Catholic writer', that irritates Greene:
' "This is indo-China," I want to exclaim, "this is Mexico, this is Sierra Leone carefully and accurately
described... '(Ways of Escape, p.60)
What are the forces that shape this foliage; the 'obsessions', as some critics describe them, that define the landscape common to all Greene's novels?
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