Is Mr Craven already dead? Or is he just dreaming?

Do you happen to have read “A Little Place off the Edgware Road” by Graham Greene? I cannot understand the story.

“At the end of the story Craven calls the police. ‘It’s the body that’s disappeared.’ It is Craven’s body that has disappeared. He has been murdered and his body has gone. When he looks at himself in the mirror he sees blood on his face. By losing his faith in religion Craven has lost the only thing which was really important to him.”
—What interests you about Graham Greene’s use of characterization in his short story ‘A little place off the Edgware Road’

“Every grave was connected to another under the ground: the globe was honeycombed for the sake of the dead, and on each occasion of dreaming he had discovered anew the horrifying fact that the body doesn’t decay.”–Excerpt from the short story

Or did he go mad?

“Craven now looks at his face in the mirror and realises that ‘his own face is sprinkled by tiny drops of blood.’ To his horror he realised that the stranger is not the murderer but the victim. At this point Craven goes berserk, screaming that he won’t go mad. But we know that he already has.”–Discussion about a Little Place Off the Edgeware Road

First Papal indulgences and now works by Graham Greene…these are interesting stumbling blocks. But do we see the emergence of a pattern?

Maybe Yutaka needs to do some background reading in Catholicism? :-0

I am reading Graham Greene’s “Complete Short Stories”(Penguin Books). Some stories are easy to read and some are hard to understand. I am very interested in the relationship between the writer and Catholicism, but not much in Catholicism itself.

Incidentally, Endo Shusaku wrote that Graham Greene and he had happened to take the same lift in a hotel in London

. . .
He was aware all the time of the stringy tie beneath the mackintosh, and the frayed sleeves: he carried his body about with him like something he hated. (There were moments of happiness in the British Museum reading-room, but the body called him back.) He bore, as his only sentiment, the memory of ugly deeds committed on park chairs. People talked as if the body died too soon—that wasn’t the trouble, to Craven, at all. The body kept alive—and through the glittering tinselly rain, on his way to a rostrum, passed a little man in a black suit carrying a banner, “The Body shall rise again.” He remembered a dream from which three times he had woken trembling: he had been alone in the huge dark cavernous burying ground of all the world.
. . .
Graham Greene, “Complete Short Stories”(Penguin Books), p. 71

That’s the beauty of creative writing isn’t it? A character could be dreaming or mad or a giant insect or in the Twilight Zone or “dead” or what-have-you. But usually by the end of the story the narrator gives you clues as to what “state” the main character is in.

I haven’t read this particular story, but it appears from the parts that you have quoted that, in the world created by the author, he is some kind of spirit-being that sleeps and dreams and forgets, so he could be all of those things: murdered (was he also a murderer? did he commit suicide?), dead, yet walking around, dreaming, sleeping, forgetting.

The body is in the state it was when it died and in that world it never decays. (Which makes me wonder about people whose bodies were destroyed or torn to bits when they died. But that’s another matter.) Being eternally in such a state would eventually make one mad, wouldn’t it? Perhaps you could even forget that you were mad, but in such a world, when you awake again from the madness and look in the mirror at the blood on your face, you could go mad all over again or try to convince yourself, “I will not go mad.”

“Ik moet weten wie mij vermoord heeft.” (I need to know who killed me.) — Beau Séjour (2017)

“Sometimes the world of the dead gets mixed up with the world of the living.” — The Others (2001)

“You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!” — The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’ (1976)

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Thank you for your very convincing explanation. I feel that Graham Greene was a very talented writer.

My pleasure, Yutaka. Graham Greene is one of the greats. Until now I had forgotten that he wrote ‘The Third Man’ (1949). One of my favorite films of all time! (Even though it has a really bad throw away line: “in Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” That last part about Switzerland — none of it true, not even the part about the cuckoo clock, a Bavarian invention. And not attributable to Greene, by the way. Apparently this line was “ad-libbed” by Orson Welles.)

I’ll have to pick up Twenty-One Stories or some other collection that contains “Edgware Road.” It makes not an iota of difference to me whether Greene was Catholic or not. Nominally, it seems.

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