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Old 12-16-2019, 07:18 PM   #31
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Playing Devil’s Advocate to deliberately undermine religious experience is an interesting perspective - I need to try it on for a while. But deliberate or just misguided, to me Greene sells religious experience woefully short by reducing it, like all the relationships in the book, to just a series of transactions. All sacrifice, no enrichment, no joy. Just tick the right boxes and you’re saved, but from what and to what?

In the same way, he equates sex with love - as though that’s all love is. Maurice didn’t love Sarah; he wanted to possess her. No tenderness, no attentiveness. He didn’t even notice that she was ill. To me, there was very little heartfelt depth in the book. And perhaps you’re right - that’s exactly what Greene wanted to portray. If so what was the point of the book - lives of quiet desperation?
You've given me a lot to think about here. This wasn't my reaction, not at all, but I also can't say you're wrong in your interpretation, either. I'll have to come back to this.

But off the top, I will say that while I thought Maurice was explicitly trying to reduce the value and integrity of religious experience, I didn't feel as if it were joyless for Sarah. My sense was that it made her life richer and deeper, that she gave up on her love with Maurice in exchange for a greater love, a greater experience. Certainly it was worth it to her. There was no sense that she was just in it for her eternal salvation, or at least I didn't get that sense. It made her life more intensely realized in the present.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:21 PM   #32
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The waiting around doing nothing is what's boring, boring, boring. Five hours of waiting before we were even called for a voir dire, which continues tomorrow.
Wow - tedious, especially if cold! Hope they let you bring a book or screen to pass the time.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:27 PM   #33
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Speaking of what Greene intended, what was the point of having Sarah’s mother ‘touch’ everyone for money, when it turns out she had enough of her own? It seemed odd, and wasn’t necessary to the story of Sarah’s young Catholic christening.
Because all her relationships were only transactional, based on money or similar? And when they proved hollow, she could dismiss the men as "mean," not even knowing what it was she had missed?

And then Maurice does make the point that Sarah didn't have a strong loving relationship modeled for her, only a succession of impermanent connections.

For me, Sarah's baptism was, like the miracles, an instance of overkill. It wasn't necessary. Even the priest said the church recognized a baptism of desire.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:33 PM   #34
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You've given me a lot to think about here. This wasn't my reaction, not at all, but I also can't say you're wrong in your interpretation, either. I'll have to come back to this.

But off the top, I will say that while I thought Maurice was explicitly trying to reduce the value and integrity of religious experience, I didn't feel as if it were joyless for Sarah. My sense was that it made her life richer and deeper, that she gave up on her love with Maurice in exchange for a greater love, a greater experience. Certainly it was worth it to her. There was no sense that she was just in it for her eternal salvation, or at least I didn't get that sense. It made her life more intensely realized in the present.
I guess I was thinking about Maurice, Richard and the priest, because they had much more air time. But on reflection, I agree - Sarah’s diary did convey a much richer, more personally fulfilling experience.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:45 PM   #35
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I've been thinking more about those links about Greene's own affair and the parallels with this book ... and I now find my reactions coloured by that knowledge. I think I preferred it when the book stood on its own, the whole thing seems cheapened by its heavy borrowing.

Not only am I much less inclined to think well of Greene for what seems to me to be cheating (in so many senses it's amazing/appalling/something), but I think this book was a horrible thing to do to Catherine and Harry. Parallels are/were obviously going to be drawn between the fictional and real protagonists, and I think it is quite cruel for him to set them up this way. (Even if the affair was not public knowledge at this point, Catherine and presumably several others - given how indiscreet Greene was - would have known and drawn their own conclusion.) My regard for Greene is sinking pretty steadily.
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Old 12-16-2019, 07:48 PM   #36
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Because all her relationships were only transactional, based on money or similar? And when they proved hollow, she could dismiss the men as "mean," not even knowing what it was she had missed?

And then Maurice does make the point that Sarah didn't have a strong loving relationship modeled for her, only a succession of impermanent connections.

For me, Sarah's baptism was, like the miracles, an instance of overkill. It wasn't necessary. Even the priest said the church recognized a baptism of desire.
Yes, that makes sense, and it’s in keeping with the book. I agree that the baptism was unnecessary. It felt to me like another instance where Greene ticks a box, but misses the point.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:03 PM   #37
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I've been thinking more about those links about Greene's own affair and the parallels with this book ... and I now find my reactions coloured by that knowledge. I think I preferred it when the book stood on its own, the whole thing seems cheapened by its heavy borrowing.
For me, a book always stands on its own. The personal element is irrelevant to what I think of it.

Which is not to say that I can't find the personal element interesting, or even illuminating, but whether or not a book works for me it based entirely on its integrity as a text.

(Thank you, Mrs. Miller, my 11th grade English teacher! She was a strong New Critic and her influence still lingers. )
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:06 PM   #38
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. Not only am I much less inclined to think well of Greene for what seems to me to be cheating (in so many senses it's amazing/appalling/something), but I think this book was a horrible thing to do to Catherine and Harry. Parallels are/were obviously going to be drawn between the fictional and real protagonists, and I think it is quite cruel for him to set them up this way. (Even if the affair was not public knowledge at this point, Catherine and presumably several others - given how indiscreet Greene was - would have known and drawn their own conclusion.) My regard for Greene is sinking pretty steadily.
In terms of parallels, it seems reminiscent of Maurice telling Henry he’d gone to the PI, and giving him the report of Sarah’s affair, which I thought was Maurice’s most selfish, despicable act in the book.

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Old 12-16-2019, 08:10 PM   #39
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[...] But off the top, I will say that while I thought Maurice was explicitly trying to reduce the value and integrity of religious experience, I didn't feel as if it were joyless for Sarah. My sense was that it made her life richer and deeper, that she gave up on her love with Maurice in exchange for a greater love, a greater experience. Certainly it was worth it to her. There was no sense that she was just in it for her eternal salvation, or at least I didn't get that sense. It made her life more intensely realized in the present.
I never got the sense Sarah got anything greater beyond that first "miracle" of Bendrix's survival. She wanted that, but I never felt as if she found that. It seemed to me that that was why she struggled. She got her miracle, and knew (if she truly believed in God) she should be awed and fully convinced by that. But the miracle does not cut her ties to Bendrix (I won't call it "love", because I'm not convinced), so she keeps bouncing back and forth between temptation and keeping her vow. And she's already broken her vows to God once (marriage vows), and that makes it even much harder to resist breaking this new vow. I think that's why committing to stay with Henry (affirming the first vow) was also an implicit strengthening of her second vow. But then Henry starts to bring Bendrix back into the picture and makes everything that much harder again.

One of the more effective elements of the book, I thought, was seeing her as persecuted. Four men were watching her, coveting her. Bendrix covets the idea of her but never seems to see her; Henry truly cares for her but can't seem to touch her; Richard worships her; Parkis ... just watches? (Maybe "covet" is too strong a word for Parkis.) But none of them actually help her. Presumably Greene set this up to better pave the way for her proposed sainthood.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:23 PM   #40
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For me, a book always stands on its own. The personal element is irrelevant to what I think of it.

Which is not to say that I can't find the personal element interesting, or even illuminating, but whether or not a book works for me it based entirely on its integrity as a text. [...]
Isn't illumination an effect? Judges get recused because it is almost impossible to totally ignore your own personal experiences and prejudices. So I see this as a nice ideal, something to try for, but not something that's really achievable.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:30 PM   #41
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I'm not addressing your main point, but I want to note that Sarah's marriage to Henry was in a registry office, so not a vow to God. I was thinking that, and then I realized there was a buried irony that Greene didn't bring up. The priest still ruled Sarah's marriage as valid and binding, however, it wouldn't have been if it had been known she'd been baptized as a Catholic, since Catholics have to be married in a church-sanctioned ceremony for a marriage to be recognized by the church.

A related issue is the physical nature of her marriage to Henry. When reading it, I thought it was merely that she was unfulfilled physically; however, I saw in some brief plot description that Henry was in fact impotent. Did I miss that? Because of course if the marriage hadn't been consummated, it was invalid on that basis, also.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:48 PM   #42
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I'm not addressing your main point, but I want to note that Sarah's marriage to Henry was in a registry office, so not a vow to God. I was thinking that, and then I realized there was a buried irony that Greene didn't bring up. The priest still ruled Sarah's marriage as valid and binding, however, it wouldn't have been if it had been known she'd been baptized as a Catholic, since Catholics have to be married in a church-sanctioned ceremony for a marriage to be recognized by the church.

A related issue is the physical nature of her marriage to Henry. When reading it, I thought it was merely that she was unfulfilled physically; however, I saw in some brief plot description that Henry was in fact impotent. Did I miss that? Because of course if the marriage hadn't been consummated, it was invalid on that basis, also.
Oh, I'd forgotten that about the registry office - so the first vow was only to Henry.

I saw nothing to indicate that Henry was impotent. Sarah writes:
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is my husband so unattractive that no woman has ever wanted him? Except me, of course. I must have wanted him, in a way, once, but I’ve forgotten why,
which suggests there was something physical in the beginning.
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Old 12-16-2019, 08:59 PM   #43
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I saw nothing to indicate that Henry was impotent.
I think it must have been based on the point where Sarah assured Maurice that Henry wouldn't realize they were having sex, as he wouldn't recognize her noises. Of course that doesn't mean the marriage hadn't been consummated in itself, so I did think that a reach, unless there was something else I'd missed.

However, I'm glad this came up, as I've not been happy with the characterization of Henry as a loving husband. If he couldn't see how essentially unfulfilled Sarah was, that was a serious limitation on his love; he was as selfish as the other two. Or, perhaps more fairly, he also was damaged and it was expressed in his lack in that respect.
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Old 12-16-2019, 09:58 PM   #44
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[...] However, I'm glad this came up, as I've not been happy with the characterization of Henry as a loving husband. If he couldn't see how essentially unfulfilled Sarah was, that was a serious limitation on his love; he was as selfish as the other two. Or, perhaps more fairly, he also was damaged and it was expressed in his lack in that respect.
I certainly agree that there are things wrong with Henry and Sarah's relationship, but cause and effect are difficult to determine from our distanced view. Early on we have Bendrix watching Henry:
Quote:
He went to the door and opened it, and automatically his face fell into the absurd lines of gentleness and affection. I had always been irritated by that mechanical response to her presence because it meant nothing—one cannot always welcome a woman’s presence, even if one is in love, and I believed Sarah when she told me they had never been in love. There was more genuine welcome, I believe, in my moments of hate and distrust. At least to me she was a person in her own right—not part of a house like a bit of porcelain, to be handled with care.
Is there not genuine love and affection in a person that always welcomes their partner's presence? That his feeling is not reciprocated makes this a rather tragic scene, but the fact that Henry never seems to hold Sarah responsible for not reciprocating makes this love seem all the less selfish - in contrast to Bendrix.

But yes, I think Henry is damaged. I think partly by Sarah distancing herself (did Henry contribute to this - perhaps, but we don't get to see that), and partly thanks to the interference from Bendrix (as with what Victoria spoke of just before, in forcing Henry to see the PI report). This make it more difficult for him to help Sarah when she needs it. But we are never really given anything to go on here, there may have been attempts to help her but these might have been rejected by Sarah who wanted only God or Bendrix. So the reader sees four men watching Sarah suffer.

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Old 12-16-2019, 10:20 PM   #45
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Inspired by the fact that I highlighted this line:
Quote:
I thought with hatred,
and added the note: "Getting sick of this. Didn't someone tell him he was overdoing it?" I did some analysis...

This book is something less than 66k words. It uses:
love/loves/loved 302 times
and
hate/hates/hated/hatred 139 times

Compare that to:

The Thorn Birds = 226k words (four times longer, but also mixes up romance and religion) which uses:
love/loves/loved 334 times
and
hate/hates/hated/hatred 58 times

I checked out some YA and romance works as well, and nothing comes close to The End of the Affair for loving and hating. So I'm not surprised that it felt like he was overdoing it.
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