Graham Greene, a devote Catholic and author of Brighton Rock, centers his novel on the religious, metaphysical concepts of good verses evil. We, as readers, are overwhelmed with the presence of evil and its power to manipulate the good, as shown especially through the protagonist, Pinkie. It is ironic that Pinkie is Catholic, for he embodies everything that is evil, sinister, and hellish. Pinkie, a gang leader, a sociopath, and a teenage devil, exemplifies evil within the novel. The physical appearance of Pinkie shows how evilness is imbedded within his being.
When we are first introduced to him, he is physically described as having a “face of starved intensity, a kind of hideous and unnatural pride” (Greene 5). This description is reminiscent of the lack of emotions Pinkie holds and his sociopathical intentions. It shows how he is hungry for something and holds an abnormally strong feeling of personal worth with a strong sense of arrogance. Greene continues on in saying that “his grey eyes had an effect of the heartlessness like an old man’s in which human feeling [have] died” (6).
Grey is a bland, emotionless color often associated with mourning and mystery. Many believe that the eyes are, in fact, the windows to the soul. With Pinkie’s grey eyes, we gain an extension of his lack of feeling and are left wondering if there is a true soul buried in him. This lack of emotion aids to his inner evilness. Lastly, Greene characterizes Pinkie as a snake: “The Boy retorted with sudden venom” (53). The snake is the animal most associated with the Devil. They represent all that is evil, dangerous, and deceitful, characteristics reminiscent of Pinkie himself.
Pinkie’s strong dislike of women shows his intolerance for other humans, therefore adding to his inner wickedness. The presence of a woman triggers a build up of anger within Pinkie, emphasizing his bigotry of others. For example, when he first hears Ida singing, he watches her with “an expression of furious distaste” (6). Although she is a beautiful, busty woman, Pinkie feels nothing but dissatisfaction and anger towards Ida. He eventually drops and shatters his glass in reaction to his irritation at Ida. Along with the mere presence of a female, Pinkie is disgusted by the idea of sexual contact and abhors sex itself.
Upon looking at Rose and her skin, he can only react with “a prick of sexual desire [that] disturbed him like a sickness” (130). Observing a woman’s body only causes him to cringe and feel ill. Other than simply his distaste for a woman, this is partly triggered by the fact he saw his parents engaging in sexual activities as a child. Regardless, he is born of unloving circumstances, unable to feel or give love. Lacking the ability to engage in sexual activities or to love another sparks a nerve in the evilness that embodies Pinkie.
He is often dominating and threatening towards female characters as a sort of defense mechanism. Just as his hatred for others adds to his evil nature, Pinkie’s fascination with pain and death does as well. In the beginning of the novel, Pinkie, himself, brutally murders Hale in revenge for Kite’s death. Being the leader of gang, Pinkie is constantly surrounded by death. In one instance, Pinkie inflicts pain on and kill an insect: “He pulled off the legs and wings one by one” (134). The drawn out description of picking off each leg one at a time emphasizes his ruthlessness.
While he picks off the legs, he does so while saying “she loves me, she loves me not” (134). Most people would use flowers for this chant, thus emphasizing his diabolicalness and highlighting his evil nature. He only gains satisfaction out of things that cause pain, such as vitriol, a deadly acid. On the contrary to his indifference to sexual satisfaction, he even gains pleasure while alone with a bottle of vitriol: “…just as the faint sensual pleasure he felt, touching the bottle of vitriol with his fingers…” (63).
It is as if Pinkie is stroking an animal or pet. Pinkie gains pleasure in painful and deadly things, thus increasing his evil demeanor. Pinkie, a Roman-Catholic, believes hell is inevitable, and because of this knowledge, he chooses to befriend evil. Despite his religious upbringing, Pinkie radically changed into a more Atheist-prone attitude, stating “God couldn’t escape the evil mouth which chose to eat its own damnation” (259). He simply believed that the presence of a force like the devil could never be touched, even by God himself.
Because he grew up in such unfathomable conditions, he has grown to view life as a living Hell; he has never experienced a slight sense of Heaven. He regards Hell as a “familiar room” (264), suggesting his familiarity to such dreadful, diabolical conditions. Succeeding Kite in the life of a gangster, he has come to be a more sadistic being, certain of his own damnation. “He spoke like a devil – he tempted her to virtue like a sin” (350). We see that Pinkie, embodying the Devil, chooses sin rather than virtue, tempting his peers with the same attitude.
He influences Rose as far as suggesting she should kill herself, even offering her a gun to do so. Greene is effective in his use of characterization and imagery to create a character reminiscent of such evil. Pinkie epitomizes the evil in the novel. Greene epitomizes Pinkie’s evil nature like “poison twist[ing] in [his] veins” (121). Thus we see the evil instilled in him, yet he continuously allows it to contaminate himself like a disease. What Pinkie did not comprehend, and Greene’s main theme, was that no matter how evil or how seemingly damned one may be, you have the opportunity to redeem yourself.