The Significance of Irony in Brighton Rock Essay
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Graham Greene uses many from of irony in Brighton. As can be expected there are many examples of dramatic irony he uses to induce the reader. But in addition to this many of the themes and relationships in the novel are very ironic in their nature.
A clear example of this can be found in the character of the novel’s protagonist: Pinkie. Pinkie is the leader of a small time Brighton mob. We expect him to be a tough, experienced, hardened criminal – sure of himself and his ability to lead.
But what we find is an innocent, insecure ‘boy’ of 17. He, for instance, does not drink – ‘You know I never touch a drink’ and is clearly sexually immature – in the incident involving Sylvia he is unable to go through with the act of sex. Rose’s character is also ironic at times. We have a picture of a very naï¿½ve, inexperienced girl. It is therefore ironic when she tells Pinkie that she has known he was a murderer all along.
Another irony is found in Pinkie’s relationship with Rose. At first it seems strange that two characters that are fundamentally different to one another are drawn to one another. One is the evil leader of a gang, while the other is a young innocent girl with little experience of the world. But ironically we find out throughout the novel that they are in fact very similar. They are, for instance, sexually immature – a fact both Rose and Pinkie admit; they also have similar ideology about religion; have grown up in a similar area and have little experience of the world. Pinkie, at first, is scared to admit this as he ironically calls Rose ‘green’, not realising that he is in fact almost as innocent as her. But as the novel progresses he admits that, ‘There’s not a pin to choose between us’.
An underlying theme in novel is religion. But Graham Greene uses it in a rather ironic. He chooses Catholicism not as positive influence in the lives of his characters but as a negative one. Pinkie himself believes that he is damned. When Rose asks him whether he believes in life after death he replies that he believes in hell. He believes that there is no point in doing good – he is destined for hell – ‘between the stirrup and the ground’ but that before his time comes he can repent. Pinkie believes he has reached hell after he has performed the mortal sin with Rose – after that he feels nothing can get worse. The influence of religion in Rose’s life is also inversed; after she has performed the mortal sin with Pinkie she feels she has ’emerged from pain to… freedom, liberty, strangeness’. After she has performed this sin she feels there is no need to continue to pray. Towards the end of the book she is prepared to commit suicide, an act she earlier condemned.
Another form of irony Greene uses is the dramatic form – which he uses to draw his readers. Two of the most prominent are in the form of Pinkie’s record to Rose and the subterfuge of Colleoni at the race course. In the latter the irony is double tiered. Firstly, the reader reads about Pinkie’s plot to have Spicer killed by Colleoni. While the reader enters the mind of Spicer who talks earnestly of his future plans, they also know that his future is limited. Pinkie is particularly proud – for when Spicer says ‘I’m all for peace, I always have been’, Pinkie replies, ‘That’s what I’m going to arrange’. However, at the race course Pinkie finds that Colleoni’s mob also attacks him as well. Ironically, however, at the end of the day neither of them has been killed.
The record of Pinkie’s voice is also very ironic. For Rose holds this as the one thing Pinkie has given to her – a token, a symbol of their love. However, on the record it says, ‘God damn you, you little bitch, why can’t you go back home for ever and let me be?’ At the very end of the book she looks upon this record as a sign of whether he loved her or not.
The death of Hale is also particularly significant. For it is ironic that on a very busy summer’s day, with a bustling crowd Hale is unable to find company, security. He still feels lonely despite the presence of many thousands of people.