The Return from the Wasteland A Burnt-Out Case

  • Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan
Part of the Macmillan Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature book series


A Burnt-Out Case follows The Quiet American both chronologically and thematically. The Quiet American ends in an impasse, a wasteland where human sin or goodness have lost their significance, and man is left on his own in a stark, seedy reality. A Burnt-Out Case is an attempt to step back from this wasteland and regain the spiritual dimension which endows the human act with significance beyond its immediate motive or consequence. This novel, however, does not lend itself to neat critical formulations as Greene seems to have strained the ‘contract’ between reader and writer beyond its acceptable limits, and the resolution of Querry’s spiritual crisis is not entirely convincing. Having dealt with the problems of the reductive narrative mode and the metaphoric overload of this novel in the first chapter of this book, I would now focus on the concept of fatherhood which functions in A Burnt-Out Case as it does in Greene’s other novels, and highlights the thematic development in the novel in a subtler and perhaps more profound manner than other, more explicit, symbolic devices.


Spiritual Dimension Moral Theology Total Vacancy Symbolic Device Sensational Story 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Gwenn R. Boardman, Graham Greene: The Aesthetics of Exploration (Gainsville: University of Florida Press, 1971) pp. 133, 142.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carolyn S. Scott, ‘The Witch at the Corner: Notes on Graham Greene’s Mythology,’ in Robert O. Evans (ed.), Graham Greene: Some Critical Considerations ( Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1963 ) p. 241.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Philip Stratford, Faith and Fiction: The Creative Process in Greene and Mauriac ( Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1964 ) p. 24.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Pryce-Jones, Graham Greene ( Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1963 ) p. 97.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Frank Kermode, ‘Mr Greene’s Eggs and Crosses’ in Puzzles and Epiphanies (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962; New York: Chilmark Press, 1963) reprinted in S. Hynes (ed.), Graham Greene: A Collection of Critical Essays ( New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1973 ).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan 1988

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  • Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan

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