The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen by Graham Greene

In The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen by Graham Greene we have the theme of hope, failure, conflict, independence, innocence and fear. Taken from his Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Greene may be exploring the theme of hope. The girl in Bentley’s hopes that her book, The Chelsea Set, will do well. She believes the hype that Mr Dwight has given the book and as such has decided upon moving to St. Tropez for six months in order to write another book. However her fiancé has concerns which some critics might suggest are legitimate. He is not as certain as the girl as to whether the book will be a success. If anything he is open minded enough to allow for the failure of the book. As such he attempts to persuade the girl on him taking a job with his uncle. Which may be important as the fiancé appears to wish to support the girl. However so enthused is she by Mr Dwight’s words she feels as though she should be supporting her fiancé. This may be important as it brings an element of conflict into the story. The couple are due to get married yet they have yet agreed upon how they will finance themselves in the future.

It is also possible that Greene is exploring the theme of independence. The girl feels as though she can live her life on the advance and royalties she is to receive for the book. However her mind may be clouded by the fact that the book has to be a success. Which she believes it will be based solely on Mr Dwight’s opinion. If anything the advance allows the girl to push for her independence and not be as reliant on her fiancé. Which may be important as at the time the story was written very few women would have been independent of their husbands. It is as though the girl feels empowered though this empowerment appears to be based solely on the advance that Mr Dwight has promised her. She is not apprehensive about the success of the book though both the narrator and her fiancé are. The girl’s fiancé wants something in life that is more solid. Hence his consideration of the job his uncle has offered him.

What is also interesting about the discussion between the girl and her fiancé is that the reader can sense the fiancé’s fear. He wants his impending marriage to the girl to be based on something that is real and not on the royalties that might or might not be received for the girl’s book. It is not that he doesn’t believe that the book will be a success but he is not prepared to take the risk. It is as though he knows life will only be harder for not only himself but for the girl too. Should the girl’s book not do as well as she expects it to. The fact that the girl believes the book will sell in the thousands is also interesting as she is basing her information on Mr Dwight’s projections and considerations of her talent. If anything the girl believes every word that Mr Dwight has told her. Which may suggest an element of innocence. The girl can see no negatives about her book which is something that would be unusual for a writer. Most writers would at times feel doubtful about their ability to write something that might merit publication. This is not the case with the girl. She oozes confidence based solely on Mr Dwight’s backing of her abilities as a writer.

The eight Japanese gentlemen who are also sitting in the restaurant may also be important. As a writer the narrator is constantly observing them as he is the girl and her fiancé. Observation is important to a writer yet the girl when she leaves the restaurant misses the fact that there were some Japanese gentlemen dining in the restaurant. This may be ironic as Mr Dwight has considered the girl to have good powers of observation as shown in The Chelsea Set. Yet she is not observant enough to see the group of Japanese gentlemen. If anything the reader is left suspecting that the girl’s book will be a failure and any hopes or aspirations she might have to continue as a writer may not bear fruit. Without her knowing it she has been tested and failed the test. Whereas the narrator has observed everybody in the restaurant and relayed the information to the reader. As a writer should do. The one saving grace for the girl is the fact that her fiancé is so level-headed. He is thinking of the future while the girl is thinking of the here and now. Swayed by the advance made to her by Mr Dwight. The reader left aware that the sense of empowerment that the girl feels while in the restaurant may be short lived.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen by Graham Greene." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Feb. 2018. Web.


  • Thank you for your analysis. But the more I read the work, the more confused I get and I think I want to ask you some questions popping up in my mind if you don’t mind.
    1. I don’t understand the meaning of the following paragraph:

    The same type of prettiness could contain weakness and strength. Her Regency counterpart21, I suppose, would have borne a dozen children without the aid of anaesthetics, while he would have fallen an easy victim to the first dark eyes in Naples. Would there one day be a dozen books on her shelf? They have to be born without an anaesthetic too.

    What does it mean when the author says “the first dark eyes in Naples”? And “they have to be born without an anaesthetic too”? I feel that the author may make some sarcasm here, but I can’t fully understand it.
    I really hope to be enlightened on such matters. Thank you very much

    • “The first dark eyes in Naples” is a metaphor. It refers to Lady Hamilton. The author uses it to say that the young man could be easliy seduced. If the man had been a young officer in Nelson’s navy and had called at the port of Naples, he could easily have been seduced by the first Italian woman he met after setting foot ashore. “they have to be born without an anaesthetic too”, this is related to Regency.

  • Hi, thanks for your review.
    I would like to ask what do you think of the woman? Is she a flat or a round character with deep traits of personality? Im very confused because she seems to have complex traits but at the same time those traits don’t show much impact in the story.

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