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Brighton Rock – Sympathy Essay

“Greene does not encourage us to find much sympathy for any of the character”

At the beginning of the novel, from the reader’s perspective Spicer gives the impression of being a young boy, in particular with his refusal to eat after they have murdered Hale. “I’ll be sick…if I eat” The Boy then responds with “Spew then”, this suggests that Spicer has a weakness especially within the group. As well as this it implies that Spicer regrets or feels a large amount of emotion towards the act they have just committed unlike Pinkie who seems totally unfazed. However, as the book continues we learn that Spicer is an older man as we are told of his “spots” that appear as well as “upset…bowels”, his “carroty” hair and his “scarred” nose.

The sympathy the reader felt before then changes to loathing, as these new descriptions create an unattractive image for the reader. As well as this his earlier weakness now comes across as spineless and almost pathetic. We also learn that Spicer used to be a Jew “but a hairdresser and surgeon had altered that”. This reiterates the point that Spicer is spineless as he can’t even stand by his religion unlike Pinkie who has very strong religious views.

Green does not actively encourage us to find sympathy in Pinkie by referring to him as either Pinkie or The Boy neither are his real name which creates a barrier between him and the reader which means that the reader has a lesser connection with him from the beginning compared to characters like Ida. As well as this Pinkie comes across as emotionless and therefore inhuman, for example there is no indication that Pinkie feels any remorse for arranging Hale’s murder.

In addition to this Pinkie’s eyes are described as “slatey” which gives the impression they are cold and emotionless, this makes the reader feel disconnected from Pinkie as he is so disconnected from human beings. Pinkie is also hard to understand as he does not behave as expected, for example he reacts negatively to anything with warmth like romance, sex and even music, this is shown when dancing with Rose at Shelley’s as the music and intimacy conjures violent thoughts as it is said that he “caresses the bottle of vittorol”. Therefore it is hard for the reader to connect at all with Pinkie let alone with sympathy.

Although when Pinkie’s age is mentioned it conjures up some sympathy, as it reminds the reader that Pinkie is only a boy trying to compete in man’s world. This is shown metaphorically when Greene mentions Pinkie’s suit being “a little too big for him”.

As the focus of the characters is male heavy there is little emotion conjured with the two female characters. There is little written solely about Rose but the reader, especially female readers while sympathise with Rose’s side of her relationship with Pinkie as it the typically case of falling in love with the wrong man. Ida on the other hand conjures little sympathy because she is not a weak, dependent character like Rose but is incredibly strong-willed and independent.

Overall I agree with the statement as Greene creates little sympathy towards his characters as you therefore feel the correct emotion toward the characters and not fazed by a “sob story”.

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