In the history of literature, it is examined that there are renowned playwrights who have gained an international audience because of their written works. Through the facilitation of themes that drive the play’s storyline, it is realized that playwrights have various influences. The critique will cross-examine the life, career development, and a play written by the internationally acclaimed playwright Graham Greene, whose works have dominated literature in the 20th Century. It is important to note that Our Man in Havana is a play, a three-act opera adapted from Greene’s novel in 1963 with the same title and the literature, written in 1958, which has also been adapted into a motion film in 1959.
Additionally, the play Our Man in Havana will be cross-examined through the lens of literary techniques, especially because it has been adapted from the original novel by Greene, which orient the play as there is the use of characterization, setting, a specific point of view and also the themes which are integrated within the context of the play, Our Man in Havana (https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/apr/12/our-man-in-havana-review-graham-greene-classic-becomes-a-clever-musical., np) to comprehend the deeper meaning and perspectives which were inherent in Graham Greene and how they have been reflected in his play as an English writer. From the contents of the play, Our Man in Havana, the evaluation is realized from the interpretation of the entire plot, which guides the three-act play.
Background and Career
To understand the mental orientation in his playwriting skills, it is examined that Graham Greene’s rich influence contributed to his dominance in literature. At an early age, Greene was exposed to quality education which gave him exposure when it came to literature, especially because he was from a well-off family. Additionally, his mother’s cousin was the acclaimed Robert Louis Stevenson, who had a lot of prowess in writing novels, poems, and English essays. When he was not in school sessions, Greene spent time with his uncle and got to read numerous books, and with the support of his mother, he could get books such as The Coral Island as he had to switch from boarding school to day schooling. Other influences that developed his interest in the literature include Ford Madox and Henry James. As for his tertiary education, he attended the University of Oxford’s constituent Balliol College. Upon completion, he got his passion for journalism as he rose through the ranks to become an affiliate editor for The Times.
With his professional journalism work still in continuation, Greene got to write his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929 (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001294/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm., np) and then became a novelist as he was talented in fictional writing which provided entertainment and thrills to his audience, with Stamboul Train gaining massive viewers in theatre (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001294/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm., np). Due to his Catholic origin, most of his works are examined to have Roman Catholic perspectives in novels such as The Power and the Glory. By the early 1950s, Greene became an international writer who depicted prowess in literature as his plays from the novels dominated. The novel Our Man in Havana, which has also been adapted into a play, was written in 1958. Regrettably, Greene died of leukemia in 1991 at a ripe old age. Nevertheless, he survived with his works of literature.
The musical play, Our Man in Havana, which has been adapted from the novel and goes by the same title, displays a lot of literal characterization, making the play unique (https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2022/apr/12/our-man-in-havana-review-graham-greene-classic-becomes-a-clever-musical., np). The first literary technique evaluated to have dominated throughout the play is the setting in which it is observable that Greene’s adapted play used the time frame when the world was experiencing the International World Wars, which were followed by the ideological Cold War, which had two opposing sides. The setting of the musical play is realized through the quotation, “Can’t be too careful even in a Gents, when I come to think of it. A chap of ours in Denmark in 1940 saw from his own window the German fleet coming down the Kattegat“(https://readerslibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/Our-Man-in-Havana.pdf., pg. 16). The quote highlights that the play has been adapted to fit with the original novel and use the setting of the post-World War era to maintain the theme of espionage between and among countries with ideological war which divided the East and the dominant Western countries as Russia was allied to Cuba with people in Havana. The play manipulates the setting to bring out the political satire, which is a dominant theme in the play, especially at a time when the world’s political structures were infiltrated by spies who, through their acts of espionage, got military and political intelligence which was crucial at a time when the international hegemony had superior countries contending for international dominance. The “sale of information” and the setting were manipulated by Graham Greene’s adapted musical play, Our Man in Havana.
Secondly, the literal technique of characterization exposes that Greene’s literature was intensively cinematic, offering entertainment to his audience as the play revolves around a British Intelligence Service officer who has been posted as a spy in Havana. The characterization of the persona James Wormold has been adapted with the play in a manner that facilitates the dramatic idea of Greene, especially because he sends false information back to London. He makes up his fictitious network of spying agents, which promotes the cinematic perspective (Silva et al., 2019), which is maintained throughout the entire storyline. The dramatic perspective is further maintained with the attributes of the character James Wormold, whose role is manipulated to provide a political satire, a theme maintained by Greene throughout the play. The theme of conflict and the cinematic attribute of Greene is based on the “thrilling” confrontation between the United States, which had allied with Turkey and Italy. In contrast, the opposing Soviet Union had missiles in Cuba.
Through the character James, there is the fabrication of intelligence which he sends to London, and he is the cause of many wrong turns as his information is from newspapers, and in a real sense, he does no espionage work. Characterization helps the comical play mock the British Intelligence Services, especially the M16, which collects and analyses human intelligence as examined through the quotation, “You sometimes find them with a vacuum cleaner. ‘Vacuum cleaner again. Hawthorne, I believe we may be on to something so big that the H-bomb will become a conventional weapon.” (https://readerslibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/Our-Man-in-Havana.pdf ., pg 48). James would take pictures of his vacuum cleaner, magnify them, and print the sketches on paper, lying that they were missiles. It is important to note that the play manipulates the cinematic point of view, which Greene maintains as it primarily depends on the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The point of view taken by the playwright Graham Greene in the three-act opera play is that of third-person omniscient, and the style of writing has been used extensively so that the narrative is given from all divergent perspectives, making the audience attentive towards the play. Greene takes an all-seeing and all-knowing position so that he can manipulate the primary characters and others to fit the themes integrated with the Cuban espionage narrative. In the third act, the script of the play, adapted from the novel, highlights the third-person omniscient point of view (Suhair., pg.912), especially through the quotation, “It was not a night Wormold was ever likely to forget. He had chosen on Milly’s seventeenth birthday to take her to the Tropicana. It was a more innocent establishment than the Nacional in spite of the roulette-rooms, through which visitors passed before they reached the cabaret.” (pg 50). It is evaluated that Greene, as the playwright, can tell about the relationship between Warmold and his daughter from a third-party point of view. It is because of the said attribute of the play, adapted from the novel, which makes the narration simpler and adaptable to all the themes which have been laden on the storyline capturing the audience’s attention through a narrative based on espionage.
The three-act play, Our Man in Havana is an opera that has extensively manipulated the literal techniques available in the literature to give an enticing and cinematic narrative based on political spying as the main theme, which has been integrated with the playwright’s point of view, his characters, the setting which elevates and make the play better and captivating to the audience.
The Novel Script of Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. 1958
Al-Alami, Suhair. “Point of view in narrative.” Theory and practice in language studies 9.8 (2019): 911-916.
Silva, M., Baldassano, C., & Fuentemilla, L. (2019). Rapid memory reactivation at movie event boundaries promotes episodic encoding. Journal of Neuroscience, 39(43), 8538-8548.