Ron Rosenbaum

Blogging Graham Greene (2): Love and Obsession

Okay I’m going to skip much set up on the love triangle: Charlie Fortnum, the sad, slightly ridiculous, foolishly romantic character always destined for heartbreak in Greene’s novels, the Honorary Consul of the title, has bought the freedom of a twenty year old girl from the brothel where she worked and seems to have married her for love. Clara of course has survived the brothel with a radiant, spiritual, if not carnal, innnocence and an instinctual wisdom as well. The usual Greene heroine. He once wrote, I forget in which novel, that the ultimate seductiveness in a woman was goodness. Goodness is hot!

Anyway, the narrator Dr. Plarr is called in to treat her at Fortnum’s mate estate (yay, mate!), remembers Clara from having seen her at the brothel and…what? Falls in love? Not exactly. Here’s how Greene puts it: “..he wondered, if a man is too rational to fall in love, that he may have been reserved for a worse fate, to fall into an obsession.”

Is this a distinction without a difference? Is there any romantic love that is not obsessive and can still call itself love? I guess that’s why I still like Greene because he makes you think about such questions.