The End Of The Affair Summary

Graham Greene

The End Of The Affair

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The End Of The Affair Summary

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Graham Greene’s novel The End of The Affair is narrated by Bendrix, a writer who once had an affair with a married woman named Sarah Miles. She ended the affair, and since then, he has lived a bitter existence. Seeing her husband, Henry, spurs him to hire a private detective, who brings Bendrix Sarah’s journal and letters. He reads her writings and learns that she ended their affair because she was starting to believe in Catholic values, and with that, came the guilt of having betrayed her husband.

Bendrix finds this puzzling,as she had previously not believed in God. He goes to her, but she flees from him, taking refuge in a church. Unfortunately, she is sick with a severe chest cold when she runs from him. In her weakened state, running from Bendrix further weakens her, and she dies. Henry is preparing for her funeral when Bendrix asks him to cremate her instead of burying her in a Catholic cemetery. Bendrix examines his own faith, holding to his beliefs while it seems everyone else in the world is seeking proof of a divine plan.

In 1944, at the beginning of their affair, Bendrix and Sarah were together when a bomb fell. Sarah left, praying that Bendrix would live. When she found that he had survived the bombing, she devoted herself to Catholicism,as she felt bound to God who, she thought, answered her prayers in sparing Bendrix’s life. She knew, too, that he wanted a love she could not give him because of her marriage vows to Henry.

Bendrix spends a lot of time in the novel thinking about Sarah’s faith and doubt, as well as the faith of other characters. He dislikes Henry for his seemingly blind faith in civil servitude. Richard Smythe earns Bendrix’s scorn for his zeal, regardless of the fact that he is against religion. Father Crompton bothers Bendrix more than most; Bendrix considers him smug and dislikes the way he peacefully accepts the world around him and the rules of his faith. Even Sarah’s mother gets under his skin because of her superstition and the secret baptism she performed on Sarah when Sarah was just two years old.

Because of this disdain he carries, Bendrix is suspicious of each of these characters and their choices for how Sarah is laid to rest. He has convinced himself that he is the only one who truly loved Sarah and appreciated her for who she was.

There are a number of themes at work in The End of The Affair. The first is the comparison between religious love and human love, which is painted as both ordinary and corrupt. For Bendrix and Sarah, at least in Bendrix’s eyes, their love is as pure and perfect as love can be. They connect with one another and consider their love to be equal and fulfilling. Sarah’s marriage vows and Bendrix’s jealousy corrupt that perfection. They cannot marry, because Sarah is bound to Henry, and so their love has no future. By splitting from Bendrix, Sarah imagines that she takes on all the pain of that split, as well as the guilt, and through that pain, she finds devotion to God. She considers this a higher form of love—religious love, which knows no bounds, unlike the love she shared with Bendrix that could never lead anywhere.

Another prominent theme is that of writing, and the writer’s view on life. Because Bendrix is a writer, he has a unique view on his life and the world around him. For him writing is not just a way to earn a living; it provides him with a philosophy in the same way that Catholicism provides Sarah with guidance. However, the two guiding principles cannot, for Bendrix, coexist. He wants to work out the psychological motives of the people, or characters, in his life; he sees blind faith as an antithesis to that understanding. For him, writing is a way to access and confirm reality in a culture that is guided by what he considers superstition and coincidence.

Graham Greene was born Henry Graham Greene in 1904. He quickly acquired critical acclaim writing both thrillers and Catholic novels. In 1966 and 1967, he was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize for Literature. During the course of his sixty-seven-year career as a writer, he produced more than twenty-five novels. His works won a number of literary awards, including the 1941 Hawthornden Prize (The Power and the Glory) and the 1948 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (The Heart of the Matter). He was also the recipient of the 1968 Shakespeare Prize, the 1981 Jerusalem Prize, and in 1986, he received Britain’s Order of Merit.