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The Tenth Man : A Brief Overview by Graham Greene

“The Tenth Man” is a short story written by Graham Greene. It tells the story of a group of prisoners during the Second World War who are faced with a difficult decision. The story explores themes of sacrifice, guilt, and redemption. In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the story and its major themes.

The Tenth Man: A Brief Overview by Graham Greene

In “The Tenth Man,” Graham Greene explores the themes of guilt, sacrifice, and redemption in the context of World War II. The story follows a group of prisoners in a Nazi-occupied French town who are forced to draw lots to determine which one of them will be executed as punishment for the sabotage of a German officer. When the chosen man is a wealthy lawyer named Chavel, his fellow prisoners devise a plan to save him by convincing the guards that he has died of natural causes. However, in order to carry out their plan, they must convince Chavel to sacrifice himself by taking on the identity of a dead man. The novel raises questions about the nature of morality and the lengths to which people will go to save themselves and others. Greene’s writing is both suspenseful and thought-provoking, making “The Tenth Man” a compelling read for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of human nature.

Background Information

Graham Greene’s “The Tenth Man” is a short story that was first published in 1944. The story is set in France during World War II and follows the fate of a group of prisoners who are awaiting execution. The story is based on an old Jewish legend that states that if ten men are sentenced to death, one of them will be spared if he agrees to take the place of the executioner. The story explores themes of sacrifice, redemption, and the human condition in times of war. Greene’s writing style is characterized by his use of vivid imagery, complex characters, and a deep understanding of the human psyche. “The Tenth Man” is considered one of Greene’s most powerful and poignant works, and it continues to be studied and analyzed by scholars and readers alike.

Plot Summary

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene is a story set in France during World War II. The plot revolves around a group of prisoners who are being held captive by the Germans. The prisoners are all members of the French Resistance, and they are awaiting their execution. One of the prisoners, a wealthy lawyer named Chavel, comes up with a plan to save his own life. He offers to pay a fellow prisoner to take his place in the execution line. The catch is that the prisoner must be willing to die in Chavel’s place. After much negotiation, a young man named Janvier agrees to take Chavel’s place. However, after Janvier is executed, Chavel is consumed with guilt and decides to take on Janvier’s identity. He joins the Resistance and becomes a hero, but he is haunted by the memory of Janvier and the knowledge that he is living a lie. The Tenth Man is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that explores themes of sacrifice, guilt, and identity.

Main Characters

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene is a novel that revolves around three main characters: Jean-Louis Chavel, Janvier, and Father Lamy. Jean-Louis Chavel is a wealthy lawyer who is sentenced to death by the Germans during World War II. Janvier is a fellow prisoner who offers to take Chavel’s place in the execution, and Father Lamy is the priest who helps Chavel come to terms with his impending death. Each character brings a unique perspective to the story, and their interactions drive the plot forward. As the novel progresses, the reader is drawn into the complex relationships between these three men and the choices they make in the face of extreme adversity.

Setting

The Tenth Man is set in a small French town during World War II. The town is occupied by German soldiers, and the residents are forced to navigate the dangerous and uncertain landscape of wartime. The story takes place primarily in a prison, where a group of men are being held for various crimes. The prison is a bleak and oppressive setting, with little hope of escape or redemption. The men are forced to confront their own mortality and the harsh realities of war, as they await their fate at the hands of their captors. The setting of The Tenth Man is a powerful backdrop for the story, highlighting the themes of sacrifice, redemption, and the human cost of war.

Themes

One of the major themes in Graham Greene’s “The Tenth Man” is the concept of sacrifice. The story follows a group of prisoners during World War II who are forced to draw lots to determine which one of them will be executed by the Germans. The protagonist, Jean-Louis Chavel, volunteers to take the place of the chosen man, sacrificing his own life for the sake of the others. This act of selflessness highlights the idea that sometimes, in order to save others, one must be willing to give up everything they have. Another theme in the novel is the power of guilt and redemption. Chavel, a wealthy lawyer before the war, is haunted by his past mistakes and seeks to make amends by sacrificing himself. The novel explores the idea that even the most flawed individuals can find redemption through acts of selflessness and sacrifice.

Symbolism

Symbolism plays a significant role in Graham Greene’s novel, “The Tenth Man.” The title itself is symbolic, representing the idea of sacrifice and the importance of one’s life. The story follows the lives of ten prisoners during World War II, who are forced to draw lots to determine who will be executed. The protagonist, Jean-Louis Chavel, is chosen as the tenth man, but he makes a deal with the German soldiers to spare his life in exchange for the wealth he inherited from his father.

Throughout the novel, Greene uses symbolism to convey deeper meanings and themes. For example, the prison walls represent the limitations and restrictions imposed on the prisoners, both physically and mentally. The characters’ clothing also serves as a symbol of their social status and identity. Chavel’s expensive suit and tie highlight his privileged background, while the other prisoners wear ragged and worn-out clothes.

Religious symbolism is also prevalent in the novel, particularly in the character of Father Sebastian. He represents the idea of redemption and forgiveness, as he offers spiritual guidance and comfort to the prisoners. The crucifix that he carries with him serves as a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation.

Overall, symbolism adds depth and complexity to “The Tenth Man,” allowing readers to explore the novel’s themes and ideas on a deeper level. Greene’s use of symbolism highlights the power of language and imagery in storytelling, and demonstrates the importance of paying attention to the details in a work of literature.

Irony

Irony is a literary device that is often used to create a sense of humor or to convey a deeper meaning. In Graham Greene’s “The Tenth Man,” irony is used to great effect. The story follows a group of prisoners during World War II who are forced to draw lots to determine which one of them will be executed. The tenth man is chosen, but he is spared when the Germans decide to spare one prisoner in exchange for information. However, the irony comes when the tenth man, who was initially relieved to be spared, ends up dying anyway due to a tragic accident. This twist of fate highlights the cruel and unpredictable nature of war and the futility of trying to control one’s own destiny. Greene’s use of irony adds depth and complexity to the story, making it a powerful commentary on the human condition.

Conflict

In “The Tenth Man,” Graham Greene explores the theme of conflict through the characters’ internal struggles and external clashes. The story takes place during World War II in a German-occupied French town, where a group of prisoners is forced to choose one of them to be executed as punishment for their resistance activities. The conflict arises when the prisoners realize that they cannot agree on who should be the sacrificial lamb. Each of them has their own reasons for wanting to live, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to survive. The tension builds up as they argue and scheme against each other, trying to shift the blame and avoid the inevitable. The conflict reaches its climax when they finally decide on the tenth man, and the consequences of their decision become apparent. Through this story, Greene shows how conflict can arise from the most desperate situations and how it can reveal the true nature of human beings.

Mood

The mood of “The Tenth Man” is one of despair and desperation. The story takes place during World War II, and the characters are all prisoners awaiting execution. The sense of impending doom is palpable throughout the book, and the characters are all struggling to come to terms with their fate. Despite the bleakness of the situation, there are moments of hope and humanity that shine through. The relationships between the characters are complex and nuanced, and the reader is left with a sense of the fragility of life and the importance of human connection. Overall, the mood of “The Tenth Man” is one of profound sadness, but it is also a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Style

In terms of style, Graham Greene’s “The Tenth Man” is a prime example of his signature blend of suspense and moral ambiguity. The story is told in a straightforward, unadorned prose that belies the complexity of the themes at play. Greene’s use of vivid imagery and symbolism adds depth to the narrative, while his skillful pacing keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. Overall, “The Tenth Man” is a masterful work of fiction that showcases Greene’s unique voice and storytelling prowess.

Point of View

In “The Tenth Man,” Graham Greene explores the concept of guilt and redemption through the eyes of the protagonist, Jean-Louis Chavel. The story is told from a third-person limited point of view, allowing readers to see the world through Chavel’s perspective while also maintaining a sense of distance. This narrative choice allows for a deeper exploration of Chavel’s inner thoughts and emotions, as well as his interactions with the other characters in the story. Through this lens, readers are able to witness Chavel’s transformation from a selfish and cowardly man to one who is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Overall, the point of view in “The Tenth Man” adds depth and complexity to the story, allowing readers to fully engage with the themes of guilt and redemption.

Criticism and Analysis

The Tenth Man, a novella by Graham Greene, has been the subject of much critical analysis since its publication in 1985. Many critics have praised the book for its exploration of themes such as guilt, redemption, and sacrifice. However, others have criticized the book for its lack of character development and its reliance on clichéd plot devices.

One of the most common criticisms of The Tenth Man is that the characters are not fully developed. Some critics have argued that the characters are one-dimensional and lack depth, making it difficult for readers to connect with them on an emotional level. Others have suggested that the characters are simply archetypes, representing different aspects of humanity rather than fully-realized individuals.

Another criticism of The Tenth Man is that it relies too heavily on clichéd plot devices. For example, the book’s central plot twist – in which one of the characters sacrifices himself for the others – has been compared to similar plot twists in other works of literature and film. Some critics have argued that this reliance on clichés detracts from the book’s overall impact and originality.

Despite these criticisms, The Tenth Man remains a popular and widely-read work of literature. Its exploration of complex themes and its powerful emotional impact continue to resonate with readers today.

Historical Context

The Tenth Man, written by Graham Greene, was published in 1985. The novel is set during World War II in France, where the Germans have occupied the country. The historical context of the novel is important to understand the characters’ motivations and actions. The occupation of France by the Germans was a time of great fear and uncertainty for the French people. The Germans were known for their brutality and the French were forced to live under their rule. The novel explores the themes of sacrifice, guilt, and redemption in the context of war. The historical context of the novel adds depth and meaning to the story, making it a powerful exploration of the human condition in times of crisis.

Reception and Legacy

The Tenth Man, a novella by Graham Greene, was first published in 1985, two years after the author’s death. Despite its posthumous release, the book has received critical acclaim and has become a beloved work in Greene’s oeuvre. The story follows a group of prisoners during World War II who are forced to draw lots to determine which of them will be executed. The tenth man, chosen by chance, must face his fate alone.

The novella’s reception has been largely positive, with many critics praising Greene’s ability to create a tense and emotional atmosphere. The book has been compared to Greene’s other works, such as The Power and the Glory and The Quiet American, and has been noted for its exploration of themes such as guilt, redemption, and sacrifice.

The Tenth Man has also had a lasting legacy, inspiring adaptations in various forms of media. In 1988, a television movie based on the novella was released, starring Anthony Hopkins and Kristin Scott Thomas. The story has also been adapted for the stage, with productions in London and New York.

Overall, The Tenth Man remains a powerful and thought-provoking work, showcasing Greene’s talent for crafting complex characters and exploring weighty themes. Its enduring popularity is a testament to the author’s lasting impact on literature.

Adaptations

One of the most notable adaptations of “The Tenth Man” is the 1988 film adaptation directed by Jack Gold. Starring Anthony Hopkins and Kristin Scott Thomas, the film follows the story of Jean-Louis Chavel, a wealthy lawyer who is forced to take the place of a man sentenced to death during World War II. The film received mixed reviews, with some critics praising Hopkins’ performance while others criticized the changes made to the original story. Another adaptation of the novel is a stage play by Brendan Behan, which premiered in Dublin in 1959. The play was well-received and has been performed in various theaters around the world. Despite the mixed reactions to these adaptations, “The Tenth Man” remains a beloved work of literature that continues to inspire new interpretations and adaptations.

Comparisons to Other Works by Graham Greene

When discussing Graham Greene’s works, it is impossible not to draw comparisons between them. The Tenth Man, published in 1985, shares many similarities with Greene’s earlier works, particularly in its exploration of themes such as guilt, redemption, and the human condition. The novel’s setting, a French prison during World War II, also echoes the backdrop of Greene’s earlier novel, The Power and the Glory. However, The Tenth Man stands out in its unique approach to these themes, as well as its focus on the relationships between the characters. The novel’s protagonist, Jean-Louis Chavel, is a wealthy lawyer who must confront his own moral failings when he is forced to take the place of a man sentenced to death by the Nazis. Through Chavel’s journey, Greene explores the complexities of human nature and the power of forgiveness. While The Tenth Man may not be as well-known as some of Greene’s other works, it is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that deserves to be read and appreciated alongside his other masterpieces.

Significance and Importance

The Tenth Man by Graham Greene is a powerful and thought-provoking story that explores the themes of guilt, redemption, and sacrifice. The novel is set during World War II and follows the story of a group of prisoners who are sentenced to death by the Nazis. The main character, Jean-Louis Chavel, is a wealthy lawyer who is forced to confront his own moral values and beliefs as he faces the prospect of his own execution.

The significance and importance of The Tenth Man lies in its exploration of the human condition and the choices we make in the face of adversity. The novel challenges us to consider what we would do in similar circumstances and whether we would have the courage to stand up for what we believe in. It also raises important questions about the nature of justice and the role of the individual in society.

Greene’s writing is powerful and evocative, and he creates a vivid and compelling portrait of life under Nazi occupation. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional, and their struggles and conflicts are both relatable and deeply moving. The Tenth Man is a timeless work of literature that continues to resonate with readers today, and its themes and messages are as relevant now as they were when the book was first published.