Welcome to our first read-along discussion of The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. If you’re following our schedule, you should have read Books One through Four.
Spoiler warning: We will be discussing Books One through Four of The End of the Affair in detail, both in this post and the comments section.
In The End of the Affair, Greene deals with three big topics. I thought we might discuss our opinion of how these themes are presented in the characters’ lives.
Marriage: In today’s world, it is difficult to relate to a marriage like Henry’s and Sarah’s. Can you imagine a woman today putting up with a man who is completely obsessed with work, refuses to make love to her, and with whom she is really more casual acquaintances than life partners? I can’t. Even in most churches today, a couple like that would be able to get some good marital counseling. But in the time period of this novel, divorce was much less common, and women were supposed to put up with just about anything from their husbands, because, after all, they are men.
Henry is such a weak character; he is very hard to empathize with. I know he was the one who was cuckolded, and so I should feel sorry for him, but I don’t understand how he could be so dense and unable to see what was right in front of his eyes: that Sarah was desperately unhappy for a long time, and then she found happiness with another man.
Passion: In my opinion, the passion experienced by Bendrix and Sarah isn’t of the romantic, “I would do anything for you” type. It’s more of an obsessive, grasping, needy passion – the desire to own someone, to control them, to be so tied to them that they are isolated from all others, at least on Bendrix’s part. I honestly don’t see what the draw to Bendrix is, but love in real life doesn’t often make sense, either!
Faith: Here’s where the book becomes most fascinating to me. Sarah is a woman who, at first, appears to have very little faith. And yet, when faced with losing Bendrix during the air raid, she makes a promise to God that she will give him up if He will spare his life. When Bendrix lives, she feels obligated to stick to that promise. The section of the book that was made up of her diary entries was most enlightening – to read what she was experiencing while Bendrix was stewing in his anger and resentment about being thrown over. In the end, I got the impression that she believed her sickness was imposed on her by God as a way to prevent her from breaking her promise.
And that leads us to the big “wow” moment at the end of this week’s reading section. I have to admit I saw it coming, and I wasn’t surprised at all. I’m curious to see where the book goes from this point on, as we still have about a third left, and one of the participants in the titular “affair” is now dead.
Be sure to leave your thoughts on this week’s reading in the comment section below! Or if you write your own post, please leave me a link so I can read it.