The Common Frontier: Fictions of Alterity in Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day and Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear

Rau, Petra
April 2005
Literature & History;Spring2005, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p31
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
While the mythology of the Blitz retrospectively reconstructs clear boundaries between the self and the inimical other, fiction written during or shortly after the Second World War demonstrates that the boundaries between friend and foe were maybe less clear at the time. Early war-time propaganda certainly struggles to define the nature of the fascist threat. Elizabeth Bowen's and Graham Greene's fascination with the Freudian uncanniness of war, espionage and betrayal produces novels whose ideological stance is unexpectedly ambiguous. Their nostalgia for a bygone age of imperialism and tradition betrays itself in making treason both plausible and understandable given Britannia's weakness. Not only do they represent the enemy as sympathetic and erotically attractive, like many of their contemporaries they also suggest that there are significant similarities between the British Empire and Nazi Germany. The essay focuses in particular on the identity politics of the spy novels The Heat of the Day and The Ministry of Fear and the representation of women as particularly vulnerable in the ideological fight against fascism.


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