A Sense of Evil

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It was to make his life more interesting. Like Wormold, the vacuum-cleaner salesman who became "our man in Havana", Greene found meaning in his life by making a fiction of it. Greene had a full life. At various points, he was a journalist, film critic, traveller and spy. What is striking is that this unusually eventful existence was not enough to keep boredom at bay. Even in his most turbulent love affair, he seems to have needed the tonic of a sense of sin. As a friend is reported to have put it, during his long relationship with Catherine Walston, he "committed adultery with her behind every high altar in Italy".

Greene's flirtation with faith gave his affair with Walston an intensity that it might otherwise have lacked, or soon lost. Famously, when he fictionalised the relationship in The End of the Affair , Greene nominated God as his true rival.

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Maurice Bendrix, Greene's alter ego in the book, rages against God for holding his lover to a hideously unfair bargain: "I hate you as though you existed. It is impossible to resist the suspicion that, for him, faith served partly as an aphrodisiac. If Greene's novels fail to satisfy, it is because the religious outlook with which he infused them was, at best, a remedy against depression; at worst, a fraud. At bottom, he seems to have believed in nothing, but he lacked the courage of his unbelief.

It is often said that he created a distinctive landscape, a world of his own, Greeneland, and it cannot be denied that this is an achievement.

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But he was at his most effective in his "entertainments", novels such as Stamboul Train and A Gun for Sale , where religious themes are absent or subdued. Greene's fascination with evil rested on an inability to imagine it realistically. There is nothing in Greene's work that matches the psychological insight of Patricia Highsmith or Georges Simenon.

Nor is this surprising. In the case of these writers, a post-religious world is taken as a given. It shows they have different values and morals, if any at all. This chant also gives us reason to be wary of the witches and to tread with caution.

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Shakespeare uses ten syllables per line for his characters, but note, in this scene the witches are given shorter lines with only seven syllables. This is just another way a sense of unrest and unnaturalness is portrayed here. There has been an incident of treachery and lies; this could possibly be seen as a challenge between good and evil; however it would appear good has won over as the traitor is found out.

The King was believed by Jacobeans to be a direct link to God that puts the King above everyone on earth. This is known as the divine right of Kings. The first we are told about Macbeth is when he is described as a good honourable man, but we are also made aware of what violence and destruction he is capable of when in battle. He is compared to a lion; majestic and respected, but able to cause devastation incredibly easily if provoked. The audience watching this probably would have seen this as all the markings of a fine man.

A good warrior is looked up to; honour and courage are qualities anyone would admire. There is another disturbance in nature when we meet the witches for the second time in scene 3. We learn of something the witches have done to a human. This would have alarmed the Elizabethans, as they would no doubt feel uncomfortable that witches could interfere with human affairs. We are told how petty, cruel and violent the witches can be in this scene.

She then goes on to brag of the torture they put her husband through.

Sense of Evil Book Summary and Study Guide

They cast some sort of spell which disallows the sailor from sleeping. Sleep is seen even now as a natural good — as much of a necessity as food and water are, there is also certain innocence about it. They see it as a bit of light entertainment, this illustrates the different morals the witches appear to have to humans. There is definitely an air of dramatic irony about it.


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This attack the witches make also shows how evil is associated with an attack on what is naturally good. Within this scene Macbeth is told he is the new thane of Cawdor, as the witches previously predicted.


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  • This is an awfully alarming clarification for the audience of its time that the witches can be right. This would be a frightening concept to anyone watching, especially an Elizabethan audience.

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    Act 1 scene 4 sees King Duncan announcing his new successor, Malcolm. Of course this is the obvious choice to anyone else but it is not what Macbeth was expecting. It comes as a surprise to Macbeth as the witches foretold to him that he would be king. Macbeth has already got evil thoughts creeping at his conscience by now and sparks what is to be a really quite tragic chain of events.

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    There are several references throughout the play to this simile of light symbolising all that is good, and dark being a hiding place for evil. Someone was able to gain their trust long enough to do the unthinkable. Their shocking murders have terrified the inhabitants of a small, peaceful town where such heinous crimes are simply not supposed to happen.

    And blond.

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    But in getting so close, Isabel has set herself up as the next victim. Now, with time running out, she and Rafe will find themselves forced to take the greatest risk of all, because this psychopath is playing for keeps and Isabel is the perfect trophy. Unable to turn back, Isabel may have already gone too far. Smart, savvy, and confident, she may find that the very qualities that have kept her alive could turn out to be her undoing. For Isabel has entered the world of a cold-blooded monster who kills without mercy and eludes every sense but one…the sense of evil.

    Kay Hooper, who has more than thirteen million copies of her books in print worldwide, has won numerous awards and high praise for her novels. She lives in North Carolina. Read An Excerpt.


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