The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
"The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene is a masterfully crafted novel that explores the intricacies of love, faith, and betrayal. Set in London during World War II, the story is narrated by Maurice Bendrix, a writer who is reflecting on his affair with Sarah Miles, the wife of a dull civil servant, Henry Miles.
The novel begins with Maurice's chance encounter with Henry, who confides in him his suspicion that Sarah is having an affair. Maurice, who is still in love with Sarah, hires a private detective to find out the truth. When Maurice confronts Sarah with the evidence, she confesses that she has been seeing another man, but refuses to reveal his identity.
After Sarah breaks off her relationship with Maurice, he becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of her new lover. He enlists the help of a private detective again, but this time, Sarah discovers the truth and ends their friendship. Maurice is left alone to ponder the meaning of his life and the nature of his love for Sarah.
The novel is divided into three parts, each of which explores a different aspect of love and faith. In the first part, Maurice and Sarah's love affair is described in vivid detail, capturing the intense passion and physical desire that they share. The second part is devoted to Sarah's spiritual journey, which takes her from atheism to Catholicism. The third and final part of the novel brings together the themes of love and faith, as Maurice grapples with the idea of forgiveness and redemption.
One of the key moments in the novel occurs when Sarah prays for Maurice's safety during an air raid, despite the fact that she has broken off their relationship. This moment marks a turning point in the novel, as it reveals Sarah's true character and her capacity for selflessness and love.
Ultimately, "The End of the Affair" is a powerful meditation on the nature of love and the human condition. It raises important questions about faith, morality, and the meaning of life. Greene's prose is elegant and insightful, and his characters are complex and nuanced. This is a novel that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.
Part 1: The Affair
In the first part of the novel, Maurice Bendrix recalls his affair with Sarah Miles, which began in 1944. Maurice is a writer who is recovering from a serious illness, and Sarah is the wife of a civil servant, Henry Miles. Maurice and Sarah's relationship is intense and passionate, characterized by their insatiable desire for each other.
The affair is complicated by the fact that Maurice is jealous and possessive, and Sarah is torn between her love for Maurice and her sense of duty to her husband. Maurice hires a private detective to spy on Sarah, hoping to uncover evidence of her infidelity. When he confronts her with the evidence, Sarah confesses to seeing another man, but refuses to reveal his identity.
The first part of the novel is filled with vivid descriptions of Maurice and Sarah's physical relationship, which is both exhilarating and exhausting. Maurice is consumed by jealousy and fear, while Sarah struggles to balance her love for Maurice with her guilt over betraying her husband.
Part 2: Sarah's Spiritual Journey
In the second part of the novel, Sarah's story takes center stage. She begins to experience a crisis of faith, brought on by the death of a young boy in an air raid. She turns to religion as a way of coping with her grief, and begins attending Catholic Mass.
Sarah's spiritual journey is complicated by her love for Maurice, which she believes is sinful in the eyes of God. She struggles with the idea of forgiveness and redemption, and begins to see her relationship with Maurice as a source of temptation and sin.
Part 3: Forgiveness and Redemption
The final part of the novel brings together the themes of love and faith, as Maurice grapples with the idea of forgiveness and redemption. He becomes obsessed with uncovering the identity of Sarah's new lover, and enlists the help of a private detective again.
When Sarah discovers the truth, she ends their friendship and retreats further into her faith. Maurice is left alone to confront his own feelings of guilt and remorse, and begins to see the error of his ways.
The novel ends with Maurice's realization that he must forgive Sarah and himself for their mistakes, and move on with his life. He recognizes that his love for Sarah was real, but that it was also flawed and imperfect. In the end, he finds a sense of peace and redemption, and the novel concludes with a sense of hope and renewal.