The End of the Party by Graham Greene
In The End of the Party by Graham Greene we have the theme of fear, conflict, connection and innocence. Taken from his Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Greene may be exploring the theme of fear. Francis is not only afraid of going to Mrs Henne-Falcon’s children’s party but he is also afraid of the dark. It is as though Greene is highlighting to the reader both an external and internal conflict within Francis. He fears the children at Mrs Henne-Falcon’s party which would play on the idea of an external conflict and he fears the dark which would suggest an internal conflict. Though some critics might suggest that Francis’ fear is irrational it might be important to remember that he is only nine years old. It is also noticeable that Peter and Francis have a deep connection with one another with Peter being able to sense how afraid Francis might be. This connection might be helped by the fact that Peter and Francis are twins. It is as though their connection is innate. Peter throughout the story has an ability to sense what is wrong with Francis.
There is also a sense that Peter is always there for Francis who some readers might consider to be the weaker of the two brothers. An example of Peter being there for Francis is when the game of hide and seek begins in Mrs Henne-Falcon’s home. Peter’s number one concern is his brother. Though he could easily abandon Francis and find somewhere of his own to hide. He doesn’t. His primary concern at all times is Francis’ well-being. Francis also appears to be somewhat innocent. He tries everything he can to firstly not go to Mrs Henne-Falcon’s party and secondly when he tries to avoid playing the game of hide and seek. He uses an excuse that he naively thinks will work. The fact that Francis sticks out from all the other children in the story could also be important as this uniqueness suggests that Francis is different to the other children. Developmentally he may not have yet reached the same point as the other children at the party who are not afraid of the dark. Rather than the game of hide and seek being something to enjoy. It is literally detrimental to Francis’ well-being.
It is also interesting that Greene describes Francis’ movements on the way to the party. Even though as readers we are aware that Peter is with him. The focus is on Francis and the nurse. Previously in the story the nurse also took Francis for a walk but Peter was allowed stay behind. This could be important as by singling out Francis (and the nurse) Greene could again be highlighting how different Francis is. Though some critics might suggest that Francis is disabled there is no evidence in the story to suggest this. However he is controlled by his fear of the dark and going to Mrs Henne-Falcon’s party. It is also noticeable that at no stage of the story does Francis take time to enjoy himself. He knows Mrs Henne-Falcon’s schedule for the party and throughout he remains apprehensive knowing that he will be faced with the dark. If anything Francis appears to know that he cannot put off the inevitable and that he must take part in the game of hide and seek like the other children. Francis’ fear of girls is also interesting as this fear is very normal. Many young boys would be afraid of girls and it doesn’t help Francis that both Joyce and Mabel Warren are older than Francis and as such he does not fully understand how to tackle them.
The end of the story is also interesting. Particularly the fact that Peter knows where Francis is hiding as Greene could be further highlighting how deep the connection between both brothers is. However there is also a sense of irony when Peter touches Francis’ face after he finds him. Rather than reassuring Francis that everything will be alright as Peter had intended. Peter manages to scare Francis to death. Greene giving the reader an insight into just how afraid Francis was. At no stage in the story does the reader expect Francis to die and by having Peter accidentally kill Francis Greene may be highlighting how overpowering fear can be for an individual. How one individual can be overcome by something that may not be real to others but is real to them. What was intended to be a happy occasion for all concerned has become a moment of sadness. Not only has Francis lost his life Peter’s concern for Francis has in fact contributed to Francis’ death. Though as readers we are aware that Peter was only looking out for his brother. If anything Francis has been killed not only by his fear of the dark but by Peter’s kindness.