The End of the Affair

'The End of the Affair'

Maurice Bendrix, the hero of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, is one of modern literature’s great soreheads. This London novelist is so swept up by his wartime love affair with Sarah Miles, the wife of a government bureaucrat, that her sudden and unexplained termination of the romance devastates him.

Abandoning his art and unable to respond to other women, Bendrix becomes obsessed with the desire to hurt Sarah and wreck her marriage to the dull but needy Henry. Right after World War II, Henry’s divulgence that his wife may be having a second affair elates Bendrix because it finally provides both the reason for her withdrawal and a chance to enact his spite. But it turns out that Sarah’s latest "lover" is God, who apparently resurrected Bendrix during an air raid after Sarah promised to renounce the romance. This seeming or actual miracle has ignited Sarah’s latent spirituality and, even as her own physique deteriorates from pneumonia, she starts to display a saint’s ability to heal others. The atheistic Bendrix is completely discombobulated. How do you compete with a rival in whose existence you don’t believe? By the time Sarah dies, Bendrix has become a better and a worse man: He’s learned compassion for humanity in general and for Henry in particular, but he’s also emotionally depleted and can only pray, at the story’s close, to a deity in whom he now tentatively believes but certainly does not love, "...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.