The Main Progressing Conflicts in The End of the Affair
It seems to be engrained in human nature that it is easier to convey misery than happiness and to be more aware in times of discontent because when one is unhappy there is not much to lose. Being miserable draws more attention than being joyful, which is something that seems to come with being human, the desire for attention, that is. Misery provides one with a situation or problem to work on and strive to resolve, while happiness is a ideal feeling of resolution and In Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair, the “protagonist”, Maurice Bendrix, says, “the sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism.” This quote portrays Bendrix as a negative character who doesn’t cope well with conflict, which, in fact, he doesn’t. Throughout Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair, Bendrix faces different conflicts, both internal, him vs. himself, and external, him vs. Sarah, in which he turns toward being unhappy and miserable as opposed to seeking an immediate resolution and subsequent happiness because of his attentive, prideful nature.
Throughout Graham Greene’s novel, The End of the Affair, Maurice Bendrix, the narrator and protagonist, constantly experiences an internal struggle, the conflict of man vs. self. He is an extremely emotional character who struggles with being open and vulnerable and, subsequently, he only feels truly comfortable in a situation when he is in control. This quality is clearly illustrated when, at the beginning of the novel, Bendrix said, “I have always found it hard to feel sexual desire without some sense of superiority, mental or physical.” (Greene 17), which clearly exemplifies his need to be dominant and have an upper hand. His love for Sarah and his yearning to be in control of his emotions, to prevent getting hurt, are constantly battling one another as he recounts the time when he thought Sarah was having an affair with someone else. During this period, Bendrix’s pride prevents him from calling Sarah to ask her why she suddenly disappeared from his life because he doesn’t want her to know that he feels so lonely and empty without her because that would be admitting he needs her to be happy. This need to be in control is also what makes him reserved to the idea of a higher power or “God;” however, in the end, he ends the novel by saying a prayer, and therefore acknowledging that there is someone, or something, higher and more powerful than he is, and ever will be. Even though in his prayer, he wishes to be left alone, he knows that being in control of his self and emotions is impossible and so he does acknowledge a higher being.
Yet another conflict readers see progress in the novel, is again involving the protagonist narrator, Maurice Bendrix, but is rather an external conflict of man vs. man, specifically Bendrix vs. Sarah. Bendrix and Sarah are one another’s first and only true love, even though Sarah is married and their relationship is an affair. Their genuine, loving relationship was shattered when, in a desperate moment, Sarah prayed that if Bendrix lived, which she was doubtful that he would after an air raid had occurred and he hadn’t returned to the room, she would give up the/their? sinful affair and become a better person. He ended up walking into the room right after she had said this and while she was happy he was alive, she was disappointed that she could no longer be with her true love, however Bendrix didn’t know why she looked disappointed when he walked into the room, which is the beginning of the conflict between the two lovers. This conflict drives Bendrix to misery, even though he wants to be with his lover and live happily, which is best illustrated when he says, “hating Sarah is only loving Sarah.” (Greene 152). This quote epitomizes Bendrix’s character because he wants to love Sarah, but resents, not Sarah as a person, but rather the fact that she “owns” part of his heart and he can’t change that. Their conflict is resolved, to a certain extent, when Bendrix reads Sarah’s diary and finally understands what really happened that ended their relationship, however, they never get the happy ending they both desired. During his narration, Bendrix finds it easier to express hate than love, misery than happiness, because his love and happiness are only present with Sarah and he can’t “have” her anymore, so he doesn’t want to discuss such a painful topic. This quote drives Bendrix to not reach out and attempt to resolve the conflict but stay miserable longer because he is too proud and petty.
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