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 sim...
... middle of paper ...
...le room and
he couldn?t remember what it was that he had to be sorry for.? (p.
Scobie?s culpability and emotional torture is proven to be in vain at
the end of the novel as both the women in his life have other men at
their side, neither his immature mistress nor his pious spouse was
worth his sacrifice.
Greene strongly establishes the view that love leads to sin in The
Heart of the Matter. This book illustrates the confusion of a Catholic
man as he is torn between the obligation to his wife and the oath to a
piteous young woman. The sympathy and responsibility he feels for
every other person but himself leads him to commit sins and destroy
himself. Scobie is a man tormented by the impossibility to live up to
the dictates of his religion, wife, and heart.
Greene, Graham. The Heart Of The Matter. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978.
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