Characteristics in “The Heart of the Matter” Essay

In book two, part one, chapter one to five, page 99 – 121. In this part we get to see some new characters but none of them are described in details, except for a few.

In chapter two, the survivors of the ship, which came to a mechanical failure in the middle of the sea, arrive on the shore. All of the survivors are exhausted and in terrible state as they have been out there in the sea for two months. I will just quickly go through the survivors who come up one by one.

The first survivor, who comes to the shore, introduces himself as Mr. Loder, and he is the chief engineer. He reports that since the captain is dead, it’s his responsibility now to make the report explaining the incidence.

The next survivors to come up are two elderly men, called Forbes and Newall, who look like plumbers by appearance. One has his foot injured, while the other has his hand injured. After them is a stalwart grey-headed woman whose name is Miss Malcott. She seems to be really worried and in a hurry. She refuses to see the doctor and wants to go to Lagos, to the educational department, as soon as possible, where i think she has got a job.

Then, the French officer comes up, his English is not good but he sounds like a friendly person. While Scobie is talking to him, another survivor passes by on a stretcher, who is a small boy of about ten years old. After him is a small girl who is about six years old, she is in a very critical condition. Both her parents had died and she is also expected to die soon. Then, there is another survivor Mrs. Helen Rolt, who is said to be 19 years old and is also in a very critical condition.

Henry Scobie, is a long-serving police inspector in a British colonial town on the West Coast of Africa during World War II, He is responsible for providing both local and wartime security as well as controlling smuggling. One of Scobie’s duties is to lead the inspections of local passenger ships, particularly looking for smuggled diamonds, a needle-in-a-haystack problem that never yields results.

Scobie is smarter than most other characters and he struggles to be honest in a place where lies and deceit are a way of life. Every man is out there for himself. The author of the book, Graham Greene has made the life in the novel, harsh and miserable for its characters; with the war going on at home and with mice, mosquitoes and cockroaches roaming around as if they were part of the life of the colonial town to create a situation of corruption and where the enemy is confusing and no one really knows who is good and who is bad.

In all those terrible conditions, Scobie struggles as a lonely person, he does not have a proper family, which is very important in one’s life. He had a daughter named Catherine, who died at a school in England several years before. On the other hand, his wife Louise; a solitary woman who loves literature and poetry but struggles to form social relationships with the society as well as her husband Scobie.

It is Mrs. Helen, whom Scobie falls in love with. I believe that it is due to the circumstances that makes Scobie fall in love with her. Mrs. Helen was married before the ship left its original port and is now a widow. I think, Scobie is trying to seek a companion in this miserable and lonely world, to escape loneliness as he has no one and there is very little left to him since his daughter died and since his wife left him.

The author Graham Greene puts duty as the central factor in Scobie’s life: duty to his job and duty to his wife. As you see even though Scobie did not love her and is unable to love anyone, including himself, but he still feels responsible for Louise’s happiness as he knows he is her husband no matter what. So in order to fulfill her desire and rescue her from this pathetic place, Scobie strikes a deal with Yusuf to raise the money to pay for his wife’s passage, which leads to Scobie’s corruption after many years of honest service. But one thing is clear about Scobie that he is not a man who can bear the thought that he has caused another to suffer. He knew it was because of him that Louise was suffering and therefore he felt that it was his duty and responsibility to get her out of this for which he put himself at risk by borrowing some money from a guy like Yusuf after he was refused by the local bank.

As far as Wilson is concerned, I saw a change in his behavior towards Scobie. For example, on page 101, when everyone is present at the Perrots house, Wilson goes in and say “why, major Scobie, I didn’t expect to see you”. So you see, even though he was told that Scobie will there but he didn’t expect him and Scobie remembers Louise describing Wilson as ‘phony’ and then at the end of chapter five we see Wilson openly attacking Scobie.

As Scobie comes out of the hospital, where he had been reading a story a sick boy, he encounters Wilson. There, Wilson makes several attacks on Scobie. He is suspicious that Scobie has some kind of a deal with Yusuf because he knows that since Scobie is in visiting terms with Yusef, Yusef is protected, as the rumors around the town suggest. But, Scobie makes it clear to Wilson that he is in visiting terms with Yusef but it wouldn’t prevent him from prosecuting him. Wilson is also suspicious about where Scobie got the money from to send Louise to South Africa as he knows he cannot afford it from his salary. He also declares that he kissed Louise but Scobie does not react to Wilson’s attacks and tries to avoid talking about it because he doesn’t want to turn against Wilson.

So, It turns out that Wilson knows quiet a lot about what’s going on, he knows Scobie has some kind of a deal with Yusuf and also that Scobie is in love with Mrs. Helen. So this shows some signs of Wilson being a spy, as he even warns Scobie openly “Don’t think I haven’t got my eye on you” on page 120.

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