Morality in Graham Greene's "I Spy"

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Anxiety Pages: 3 (1064 words) Published: December 18, 2004
As World War I raged about Europe, Great Britain took every measure available to ensure the war didn't spread into their own backyard. Their army was doing fine fighting elsewhere in France and Germany, but as William I proved in 1066, when you invade England, it's not the English that win. Britons lived in constant fear of a takeover by the German "huns," and this fear inspired Graham Greene to comment on morality in man in his short story, "I Spy." Greene explains, through the conflict that his protagonists suffer, that sometimes society's morals are artificially removed, for example in a time of war in which the object is to kill as many people as possible that aren't on your side. In these situations, people have to make their own decisions about morality and right and wrong, and this absolutely terrifies them. This is shown in "I Spy" through the characters, imagery, and setting in the story.

The main character in "I Spy" is Charlie Stowe, a twelve year old boy living in England. Charlie is teased by boys at school about never having smoked a cigarette, so one night sneaks downstairs to his father's tobacconist shop to have one. He knows this is not only wrong but illegal, but does it anyways to try to mitigate his schoolmates' ridicule. Since Charlie knows he is doing wrong, throughout the story he has an overbearing fear of being caught. Apparently for Charlie, however, the consequences of being caught stealing cigarettes are less than the consequences of not smoking at all, so he goes through with his plan. The other main character in the story is Charlie's father who owns the shop. He is described as an 'unreal wraith,' not loved by his son. As the story progresses, it becomes evident that Mr. Stowe has been taken into custody for being a spy, and is being brought to the shop to get his coat before he is led, presumably, to trial and execution. It is not clear whether Mr. Stowe became a spy because he was a tobacconist (specializing in imports from...
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