Infused as it is with spiritual and moral tensions, Graham Greene’s writing resonates heavily with medieval religious literature. His narratives are defined by complex dilemmas, by characters whose psyches are battlegrounds (often between their own divided loyalties) and by the looming threat of damnation and the notable absence of God. This influence of medieval writing seems nowhere more obvious than in “The Hint of an Explanation,” a 1948 short story where the motif of the soul as battleground is vividly drawn and where faith is deepened through moral crisis. Greene takes as a source for this text Host desecration myths in order to create a type of moral fable that rejects the stark contours typical of the genre. Here, he complicates interpretation to explore the nature of faith, morality, and redemption.


Dr. Frances McCormack lectures in English at the National University of Ireland in Galway. She has published on a range of topics from Old English poetry to Graham Greene. Her monograph, Chaucer and the Culture of Dissent, was published in 2007, and she is currently working on a monograph on compunction in Old English poetry. She is co-editor of Anglo-Saxon Emotions: Reading the Heart in Old English Language Literature and Culture (with Alice Jorgensen and Jonathan Wilcox) and Chaucer’s Poetry: Words, Authority and Ethics (with Clíodhna Carney). She was director of the Graham Greene International Festival in 2014.