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‘A Conflict between an Image and a Man’: The Visual Diction of Romance in Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair

‘A Conflict between an Image and a Man’: l’éloquence visuelle de la romance dans The End of the Affair de Graham Greene
Jean-Michel Ganteau


Cet article propose une lecture de l’un des romans les plus connus de Graham Greene à travers une analyse des pratiques iconotextuelles qu’il met en œuvre. Le point de départ est lié à une hésitation entre tableau vivant et effet tableau telle qu’elle peut se faire jour à la lecture du récit, ce qui permet de proposer une analyse du visuel (par opposition au visible, selon la distinction introduite par Georges Didi-Huberman) dans ce roman. Pour ce faire, l’article emprunte à Marie-José Mondzain ses découvertes et analyses pour tenter de démontrer que Greene utilise un régime du visuel qui n’est point celui de l’icône (fonction fermée et prosélyte de l’icorporation) mais bien celui de l’image (puissances d’ouverture et de problématisation caractérisées par la notion d’incarnation). Cette analyse de l’iconotexte permet de démontrer en quoi l’œuvre de Greene semblerait tourner le dos à une pratique par définition univoque du mélodrame religieux en faveur d’une adoption des potentialités d’ouverture éthique de la romance.

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1There is something overly dramatic in Graham Greene’s fiction, in his religious melodramas of heaven and hell in which right and wrong (in what the author considered his novels of ‘entertainment’) or good and evil (in what he saw as his more ambitious fiction) are seen to be in ceaseless conflict expressed through hyperbolical repetition. This may be one of the reasons why it might be natural to imagine that one of the staples of the melodramatic imagination as identified namely by Peter Brooks (Brooks 48), i.e. the use of tableaux and tableaux vivants (imported from the dramatic version of melodrama into its narrative avatars), could well be expected to be found in such a visually eloquent text as The End of the Affair. For in fact, at a first reading, one may well be left with a distinct memory of some scenes as characteristic of emphatic instances of melodramatic diction. However, a closer look at the narrative is bound to belie this first, haunting impression as no tableau vivant is to be found in the novel. And the starting point of this article is that such a false impression certainly accounts for the haunting nature of the visual in The End of the Affair.

  • 1 In David Lodge’s terms, this is envisaged as ‘erotic rivalry with God for the possession of Sarah’ (...)
  • 2 I will make special reference to L’image peut-elle tuer? and Le commerce des regards. It seems to m (...)

2A statement forcibly made by the first-person narrator, Maurice Bendrix, late in the narrative, as he is watching his former lover Sarah Miles, at prayer in a heavily ornamented Roman Catholic Church, may also justify the necessity for a thorough investigation of the text-and-image relationship as exemplified in the novel. In this passage, the protagonist is led to examine an actualization of the time-honoured love triangle so current in stage melodrama, a topos with a difference, though, as his rival simply happens to be God: ‘She loves us both, I thought, but if there is to be a conflict between an image and a man, I know who will win’ (Greene 128).1 ‘[A] conflict between an image and a man’, this does sound as a somewhat grandiloquent way of putting things that captures the general mood of the novel and, at the very same time, provides a key to the centrality of things not only visible but also visual in the novel’s economy, in other terms, not only things merely visible (corresponding to the represented content of the image) but also things visual (i.e., elements that problematise and blur interpretation, that present a force instead of merely representing a referential content [Didi-Huberman 25–27]). This is why I am going to address the problem of the visual, more than that of the visible, in relation with the modal categories of melodrama and romance in the following pages. I should also specify at this stage that my use of the word ‘image’ will owe much to French philosopher Marie-José Mondzain’s analyses.2 After briefly dealing with the poetics of the word-and-image dialogue as manifest in the novel, I shall move on to the modal and ethical aspects of the commerce of visibilities as present in The End of the Affair. This might allow me to put the debate around the reception of this novel in perspective and suggest the protean mode of romance as a way to re-contextualise it.


  • 3 For a comparative analysis of the two novels, see Hynes’s ‘Two Affairs Revisited’ that tackles the (...)
  • 4 See for example David Lodge’s analysis of the obsessive recurrence of motifs in the novel, with 298 (...)

3The End of the Affair has always been compared to another masterpiece of British Catholic melodrama, i.e. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.3 Both texts share a central concern with a hackneyed conversion structure (an adaptation of the quest motif to be found in secular romance) and stage the topoi of the converted agnostic and woman as the mediator of divine grace, while exalting the virtuous categories of sacrifice, suffering and heroism. More specifically, both novels are famous for their ekphrastic evocations of religious art of the Baroque (in Waugh’s case) or Sulpician (Greene’s version) type. Such ingredients, of course, are dependent on a predilection for the workings of narrative hyperbole, a fondness for Manichaeism and extreme situations (Burgess 93), together with ostentatious breaches of the decorum of the realistic idiom.4 Yet, from its publication, Greene’s novel met with varied responses that may be grouped under two headings: on the one hand, the novel was considered as a fairly unorthodox piece of religious literature, lashing at the basic tenets of Catholic orthodoxy in terms of sexual morality; on the other hand, some critics were apt to unearth a great deal of orthodoxy in Greene’s shameless handling of the staples of Catholic conversion stories of the nineteenth century (Hortmann 64, 71). Most confusing for early reviewers and critics was Greene’s treatment of Charles Péguy’s paradox according to which the sinner is at the heart of Christianity—or in more unorthodox terms, that the sinner and the saint are one and the same person—which The End of the Affair is generally recognised to be a narrative variation on (Wichert 99). Such ambiguity was commonly referred to in terms of ‘disloyalty’, a category which came to be very much associated with Greene’s production, from the 1950s onwards (Wichert 103). Now, the fortunes of Greene’s œuvre seem to have dwindled from planetary success to relative oblivion—except for a shudder of interest artificially generated by the centenary of Greene’s birth—and it might be high time to re-assess some of his works through prisms different from those wielded from the 1950s to the 1980s.

4As Frédéric Regard reminds us, Greene was very much involved in visual arts, as a film critic for The Spectator and as an artist concerned with the adaptation of his own novels (Regard 93), and such a concern is all-too apparent in The End of the Affair. The fact that the protagonist, Maurice Bendrix, should be a novelist is often used as a pretext to introduce reflection on the craft of writing and the narrator’s remarks on his own method address the way in which characterization or narrative structure depend on the evocation of the visual. Bendrix’s narrative thus starts with images, i.e. that of a friend whose silhouette is glimpsed in the dusk of a winter evening: ‘[. . .] but do I in fact of my own will choose that black wet January night on the Common, in 1946, the sight of Henry Miles slanting across the wide river of rain, or did these images choose me?’ (7); and that of his lover, caught in a frozen gesture: ‘How can I make a stranger see her as she stopped in the hall at the foot of the stairs and turned to us?’ (18). Those are the two visual operators that preside over the temporal organisation of the story and determine both the beginning and the end of the affair. Visual determination thus assumes pride of place from the very start.

  • 5 This is a direct translation from Liliane Louvel’s ‘effet tableau’, a phrase that might be said to (...)

5On top of that, what brings about the end of the affair is the melodramatic pact with God into which Sarah Miles willingly enters. The scene takes place in 1944, during the first days of the V1 raids over London. The lovers are in bed, in the narrator’s rooms, when a rocket explodes in a nearby street. This prompts him to go to the basement to check whether there might be other inmates around who could be suspicious of the adulterous relation that Bendrix and Sarah are entertaining. While he is walking down the stairs, a new bomb goes off, burying Bendrix under a door that has been blown off its hinges. Seeing and touching his hand that appears from under the door, Sarah becomes convinced that her lover is dead. She runs back into the room on the first floor, falls on her knees and starts praying: if Maurice is returned to life she will relinquish him. While she is on her knees, Bendrix appears at the door and hails her. After a brief conversation, she leaves both the room and her lover for good. It is only two years later that the two former lovers meet, at the beginning of the narrative—as commented on above. Bendrix will try to reclaim his lover, will hire a detective to find out why she will not yield to him, and will realise when reading her diary (stolen by the detective) that her rival is not human but divine. This discovery triggers off in turn a confrontation and reconciliation between the two lovers (staged in the aforementioned kitschy settings of a local Catholic church), which will be curtailed by Sarah catching her death of cold. The last part of the novel is devoted to a series of coincidences that strain the reader’s belief even further: the discovery that Sarah was secretly baptised as a Catholic as a child (unknown to her father and even herself), the disappearance of a birthmark on a man’s cheek after Sarah has kissed him out of pure sympathy, the curing of a child who was able to touch a book that had been Sarah’s property when she was a little girl. Implausibility is thus toppled over implausibility to suggest a string of miraculous coincidences, a device more associated with melodrama or romance than with the more pedestrian logic of the realistic text. The novel winds up on the narrator praying to a god he professed not to believe in to leave him alone, which constitutes an invitation to consider that the blasphemous agnostic has been converted (a structure that finds its inspiration in hagiographic literature, with obvious instances like Paul or Augustine). Interestingly, the melodramatic nature of such narrative choices is not accompanied with a great deal of visual emphasis. As suggested above, there are quite a few references to the visual, but they are generally of the implicit, flitting type, most of them belonging to the category of the ‘tableau effect’.5 There are very few explicit visual evocations (no tableaux vivants or aesthetic arrangements or pictorial descriptions as direct references to a represented image [Louvel 38–44]), but among the scarcity of ekphrastic passages disseminated throughout, one realises that a majority of them (three out of five, actually [109, 110–111, 119]) are devoted to the evocation of the statuary in the twice-mentioned Catholic church. Now, even if such passages are rather short, they have a crucial function in underlining the materiality of the religion that the female protagonist has espoused in paroxystic circumstances and in underscoring the compatibility between the divine and the carnal in a confession that has made incarnation the cornerstone of its doctrine (Mondzain 2002b, 22). Such passages, in their ostentatious display of the materially religious, do provide a vivid context for the drama of jealousy, sacrifice, suffering and conversion that gives the novel its substance.

6Besides, one might gather from the above synopsis that what characterises the narrative as a representative of the English tradition of the Catholic novel is its reliance on the exchange structure in which, through the figure of the pact, a woman trades her lover for the love of God in a story of renunciation and sacrifice. And interestingly, the images that condition and trigger off this diegetic event are the picture of Bendrix’s apparently dead hand appearing from under the door and the symmetrical picture in which Sarah is shown to pray on her knees. The former is seen from Sarah’s perspective while the latter is shown from Bendrix’s. The first evocation of the accident is voiced by the narrator who explains things in a detached, informative way (72). It is taken up some twenty pages later, when the reader is given access to Sarah’s experience through the means of her diary: ‘I went down the stairs: they were cluttered with rubbish and broken banisters, and the hall was in an awful mess. I didn’t see Maurice at first, and then I saw his arm coming out from under the door’ (94). The second occurrence of this scene triggers off a textual memory that, added to the consubstantially haunting nature of the tableau effect (Louvel 34), accounts for the spectral dimension of the image. The matching element in this diptych is to be found earlier on when Bendrix, in a canonical instance of a tableau effect, catches a critical glimpse of Sarah: ‘the door of my room was open and coming along the passage I could see Sarah; she had got off the bed and was crouched on the floor [. . .]’ (72). Here the framing provided by the door together with the passive use of the attitudinal verbs underlines the frozen nature of the moment and signposts the scene as one of crisis in the Aristotelian sense.

7Obviously, the centrality of these visual scenes, their nodal function in the development of the melodramatic plot, their symmetry and echoic nature, all those elements added to the general context of redundancy, hyperbole and paroxysm, might account for the reason why one might readily misinterpret those scenes as tableaux vivants. For in fact the emphasis does not lie in the intrinsic nature of those images but in their organisation into a wider-ranging narrative and visual system. And so high a degree of synergy between the visual and the narrative, in the melodramatic economy of the novel, might help explain why half of the critics who worked on The End of the Affair chose to stress the novel’s orthodoxy as a literary text (a Catholic novel) and its pragmatic efficiency in terms of apology and proselytism. Envisaged from this perspective, the visual regime of the novel would thus correspond to what Mondzain defines as a logic of incorporation (as opposed to incarnation) based on identification in which no distance is allowed to exist between the viewer and the picture or idolatrous icon or pseudo-image, in which the viewer enters into some kind of unreflective fusion with the object of his contemplation, a regime that may well be instrumentalised by power and which she considers has been wielded by Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church from their birth (Mondzain 2002a, 33; Mondzain 2002b, 106–111).


8What appears from the above is that the iconotext in The End of the Affair works as a means to introduce a place and a moment of crisis into the narrative. It modifies the rhythm and exacerbates the hyperbolically melodramatic diction. It also provides a visual image of the double temporal structure on which the plot is based—and which has been commented on recurrently, without the iconotextual apparatus being alluded to. Such duplication displays a double framing of sorts that seems to be the symptom of a narrative lock up signposting the presence of the critical heart of the narrative in which the elements of the diptych are seen to signal to each other in echoic and symmetrical fashion. Clearly, such a device has to be valued for its pathic dimension and pragmatic effect and accounts for the lingering illusion of the prevalence of the visual. Of course, there are at least two valences to be attributed to the critical presence of the iconotext, corresponding to the two critical responses summarised above: the hortative, conservative one, reliant on the regime of incorporation; and perhaps a more tentative, open one, more specifically attuned to the workings of incarnation that is the cornerstone of Mondzain’s theories. True to its etymological reverberation, the notion of ‘crisis’ thus assumes the meaning of ‘turning point’, but also of ‘decision’, or ‘event’. In other terms, the event that the iconotext introduces into the narrative triggers off a response that is not merely of the passive, submissive type but that has to do with action and decision.

9This may be explained in the light of Mondzain’s analysis of incarnation as the essence of the image in the Western/Christian culture. Among various types of what she calls ‘visibilities’, she defines the image as an operator of conversion of the invisible into the visible. She takes as the example of incarnation the manifestation of Christ as the image of the infigurable. For Mondzain, incarnation—the nature of the image, then—does not depend on imitation or reproduction or simulation but consists in giving flesh to something that is simply not there, the making visible of an absence. In other words, she takes an image to be the making visible of what cannot be figured, and this applies more especially to the image of the Passion (Mondzain 2002a, 22; Mondzain 2002b, 136). One step further, the fundamental criterion that she adds to this definition is that of a necessary distance (écart) from the image that is inherent in the viewer’s gaze. The distance prevents identification and incorporation and makes it necessary to maintain three instances: the invisible, the visible, and the gaze that puts the two in relation with one another (Mondzain 2002a, 23). With what Mondzain considers a real image, then, submission and propaganda are not to be expected. In other terms, there is no possibility of a univocal meaning in the image in that it is the viewer who establishes the nature of the image (Mondzain 2002b, 73), each individual viewer seeing something potentially different in a single image.

  • 6 In the older version, Bendrix’s hand appears from under the door, in full respect of the novel, but (...)
  • 7 For an illuminating analysis of Didi-Huberman’s hypothesis, see Mathieu Duplay’s ‘Dire le visible/c (...)
  • 8 For more details about this form of indirect presentation, see Mondzain’s analysis of the biblical (...)

10As may be surmised from the above, my contention is that this might well apply to the use of the iconotext in The End of the Affair. For one thing, the apprehension of the central diptych can be envisaged in different ways. Depending on the religious and political options favoured by the reader, the values will be contrasted, as suggested by the contradictory opinions prompted by the publication of the novel. The apprehension will be extremely context-sensitive too, witness the remarkably different presentations of the scenes to be found in the first cinematographic adaptation dating back from the 1950s and in the 1990s’ more recent one.6 At least, what is clear is that Greene takes the risk of either acceptance or rejection of this critical tapping of the iconotext, and perhaps courts a more ambivalent response in which oscillation between acceptance and rejection could appear as yet another, more dynamic and paroxystic option. What I am trying to explain is that the central diptych acts both as a place and a moment of crisis in which a pathic event can lead in turn to epistemological destabilisation. In this critical moment, knowledge and certainty are suspended. The ‘decision’ aspect of the crisis is turned into indecision. The function of the iconotext is thus critical, in that it both buttresses and warps the melodramatic programme. In this sense, the iconotext has no epistemological or moral certainty to offer: its function is simply to perform a critical locus half way between the invisible and the visible, appearance and disappearance, presence and absence (Mondzain 2002b, 171–172). This of course is not without reminding us of Didi-Huberman’s analysis of the visual (as opposed to the visible) as a power that delays and blurs interpretation, of something that is less represented than presented (Didi-Huberman 27).7 And ultimately this takes us far away from the authoritative model of interpretation of the incorporative type to let us contemplate the liberating possibilities of incarnation. And possibilities or potentialities, this is what the iconotext in The End of the Affair, despite appearances, asks us to be content with envisaging. For in fact, the reader remains free to invest the symmetrically presented images of crucified Bendrix and of kneeling Sarah with a variety of valences as nothing, ultimately, is made visible. The iconotext thus works as a screen on which what is shown, in some kind of negative presentation, is that there might be something outside the screen or frame, and what the iconotext shows is that it does not show, precisely (Mondzain 2002b, 130).8 This is why, for Mondzain, the nature of the true image is to keep up the viewer’s desire to see God without ever satisfying it, thereby providing an endless tension that cannot ever be resolved (contrary to a pseudo-image in which the reader is allowed no distance from the visible and is thus the victim of identification and, later, incorporation). Such an analysis leads Mondzain to see the image as the daughter of desire (Mondzain 2002b, 42–44). I would ultimately suggest that this applies to the iconotextual economy of The End of the Affair—once again notwithstanding appearances—in which images provide room for some sort of élan or impulse out of the aesthetic, epistemological and, presumably, ontological presuppositions of the narrative without ever completing the impulse or at least letting it move beyond the phase of inchoation. The iconotext becomes some sort of operator of projection or departure used to refract or prise open what would appear otherwise as a univocally melodramatic text. Contrary to all expectations, the iconotext becomes an instrument of distance and resistance that blurs, displaces and extends the implications of the more constrictive linear prescriptions of genre and mode.


  • 9 This might help prolong David Lodge’s intuition that Greene’s œuvre is saved from melodrama by iron (...)

11What I would like to pinpoint, ultimately, is the remarkable fact that Greene, on the eve of a period that is universally considered to have ushered in the tyranny of visibilities of all sorts, is intent on presenting us with images in The End of the Affair. I would then see his use of the iconotext as a means to undermine the univocal diction of melodrama and to refract the canon of the traditional British Catholic novel, with its edifying agenda. Said differently, the critical use of the iconotext introduces a moment of crisis into the linear logic of both melodrama and the realistic idiom that the novel is also steeped in.9 By pointing to another potential truth beyond that mediated by the narrative, the descriptive, iconotextual snatches are used as operators to suggest the existence of another, tentative possibility that remains infigurable. What the iconotext does to the more traditional forms of narrative exemplified in the novel is multiply the possibilities of the actual world, in true romantic fashion (and by ‘romantic’, I do not mean just ‘belonging to the Romantic movement’ but rather ‘characteristic of romance’). Greene’s use of the iconotext is thus designed not only to refract generic and modal boundaries but also to perform an operation on mimesis that he seems to consider as too limiting an option. Once again, Greene’s handling of the iconotextual image is not meant to provide a simulation, a duplicate or a representation but to perform a presentation that there is something else, true to the ethical agenda of romance.

12One step further, what Mondzain’s theory of the image adds to the analysis of the text/image dialogue is a means to go beyond the merely poetical or aesthetic so as to offer a re-contextualisation of the cultural and diachronic type. More specifically, her system may help us construct a political vision of the image, hence of the iconotext, with on the one hand the idolatrous icons as opposed to the real image that secures the viewer’s freedom. This is a means, of course, to put the ethical imperative high on the iconotextual agenda, and such an invitation is at work in The End of the Affair.

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Brooks, Peter, The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess, New Haven and London: Yale UP, 1976.

Burgess, Anthony, ‘Politics in the Novels of Graham Greene’, Journal of Contemporary History 2.2 (April 1967): 93–99.

Didi-Huberman, Georges, Devant l’image. Question posée aux fins d’une histoire de l’art, Paris: Minuit, 1990.

Dmytryk, Edward, dir., The End of the Affair, Columbia, 1955.

Duplay, Mathieu, ‘Dire le visible/contempler l’énonçable: quelques aspects de la problématique texte/image’, Congrès de l’A.F.E.A. in Pau, 17 May 2004.

Greene, Graham, The End of the Affair (1951), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975.

Hortmann, David, ‘Graham Greene: The Burnt-Out Catholic’, Twentieth-Century Literature 10.2 (July 1964): 64–76.

Hynes, Joseph, ‘Two Affairs Revisited’, Twentieth-Century Literature 33.2 (summer 1987): 234–235.

Jordan, Neil, dir., The End of the Affair, Columbia, 1999.

Lodge, David, ‘The Use of Key-Words in the Novels of Graham Greene—Love, Hate and The End of the Affair’, Blackfriars 42 (Nov. 1961): 468–74.

Lodge, David, ‘Graham Greene’, The Novelist at the Crossroads and Other Essays on Fiction and Criticism (1971), London: Ark, 1986, 87–118.

Louvel, Liliane, Texte/Image: Images à lire, textes à voir, Rennes: PUR, 2002.

Mondzain, Marie-José, L’image peut-elle tuer?, Paris: Bayard, 2002a.

Mondzain, Marie-José, Le commerce des regards, Paris: Seuil, 2002b.

Regard, Frédéric, ‘Le cinéma d’auteur selon Graham Greene: principes d’une ‘eikono-graphie’’, Études britanniques contemporaines 26 (June 2004): 93–106.

Waugh, Evelyn, Brideshead Revisisted: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Corporal Charles Ryder (1945), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951.

Wishert, Robert A. ‘The Quality of Graham Greene’s Mercy’, College English 25.2 (Nov. 1963): 99–103.

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1 In David Lodge’s terms, this is envisaged as ‘erotic rivalry with God for the possession of Sarah’ (Lodge 1961, 472).

2 I will make special reference to L’image peut-elle tuer? and Le commerce des regards. It seems to me that Mondzain’s resort to the history of aesthetics as linked with religious and social history is especially relevant to an analysis of Greene’s production. This is all the truer as Mondzain takes care to systematically foreground the pragmatic dimension of both icons and images (as will become apparent in due course), a position that I find invaluable in the context of the analysis of the reception of Greene’s œuvre. Finally, I find Mondzain’s binary conception compatible with an analysis of the ethical, within the general framework of an ethics of truths. Those are the reasons why Mondzain’s theory provides the main conceptual framework for this article. Finally, I would like to thank Michel Morel for drawing my attention to Mondzain’s works.

3 For a comparative analysis of the two novels, see Hynes’s ‘Two Affairs Revisited’ that tackles the issue of the limits of realism and the liberating power of romance (without providing a reflection on the latter term).

4 See for example David Lodge’s analysis of the obsessive recurrence of motifs in the novel, with 298 occurrences of ‘love’ and 100 occurrences of ‘hate’ that produce a saturation effect.

5 This is a direct translation from Liliane Louvel’s ‘effet tableau’, a phrase that might be said to allude to what English-speaking critics usually call ‘frozen verbal tableau’ or ‘frozen moment’ (Louvel 34–35).

6 In the older version, Bendrix’s hand appears from under the door, in full respect of the novel, but Sarah is not shown to be kneeling in the room. The lower part of her body is out of frame, which means that she could well be crouching or sitting by the bed. One reason for such discretion would be that in the 1950s, religious membership and practice was much in people’s minds and that the picture of the kneeling woman would both be too redundant and, for this reason, too estranging for the non Catholic reader. On the contrary, in the later version, Bendrix is simply seen to be lying on the stairs, an obvious departure from the original, but Sarah is kneeling and the upper part of her body is shown to be sprawled on the bed, in an attitude of utter abandonment to her passion and submission to the God she is imploring. In the more secular 1990s, the religious pose acts as an operator of exoticism that helps capture the ambiance of the mid-1940s, the period when the action is supposed to take place.

7 For an illuminating analysis of Didi-Huberman’s hypothesis, see Mathieu Duplay’s ‘Dire le visible/contempler l’énonçable: quelques aspects de la problématique texte/image’. Duplay himself comes to quite enlightening conclusions when he comments on the ethical (in the ‘ethics of truth’ acceptation of the term) value of images: ‘Le hiatus provoqué par l’image n’est pas un silence religieux, mais un temps de latence nécessaire à l’émergence du nouveau; il n’est pas capitulation devant ce qui, à jamais, échappe au dire, mais suspens dynamique par lequel, peut-être, advient un savoir inédit dont les modalités restent à définir. Avoir la religion de l’image, cela voudrait dire la penser comme une figure du tout, de la totalité inconditionnée [. . .] L’essentiel est de prendre conscience que, jusque dans ces cas extrêmes, l’image n’est peut-être pas rien pour autant: elle est malgré tout, elle opère par instants une trouée vers autre chose, vers un autre ordre de réalité [. . .]’ (Duplay 7). This is confirmed by Regard when he mentions that for Greene the image is certainly not synonymous with the univocal (Regard 94).

8 For more details about this form of indirect presentation, see Mondzain’s analysis of the biblical passage relating Cham’s transgression (he sees the naked body of his father Noah) and subsequent curse which the philosopher sees as fundamental in establishing the separation between iconophile and aniconic religions, and in explaining how, paradoxically, seeing the father has to go through the process of non seeing. Put differently, Mondzain explains how blindness is the prerequisite for vision (Mondzain 2002b, 39).

9 This might help prolong David Lodge’s intuition that Greene’s œuvre is saved from melodrama by irony (Lodge 1971, 92).

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Jean-Michel Ganteau, « ‘A Conflict between an Image and a Man’: The Visual Diction of Romance in Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair »Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 31 | 2006, mis en ligne le 07 juin 2022, consulté le 21 avril 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Jean-Michel Ganteau

Université Paul-Valéry—Montpellier 3

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