In many of his short stories Graham Greene writes about the theme of death.Here death always stands in close relation to fear, though there are only two of his short stories namely A Little Place off Edgeware Road and Proof Positive, which by their settings and characters create a certain kind of horror and revulsion. The latter, M.G. Brennan wrote, is “[…] dealing with the polarities of life and death […]” (28) and has a rather ironical and mystic notion towards the theme. Brian Diemert claims in his article Recomposing “Valdemar” that Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar “[…] is both the model for and the precursor of Greene's story, […]” (1). The writer got inspired by Poe’s combination of horror and suspense as well as the resolute and appalling way he used to end his tale.
Though there is a time frame of 85 years between the publications of the narratives and a slightly different, rather more modern connotation in Greene’s short story, they have both certain similarities. In the following I will demonstrate the parallels and differences between the two texts and answer the question to what extent Graham Greene creates a picture of horror and disgust in Proof Positive.
Usually when it comes toEdgar Allan Poe we deal with tales of horror and disgust therefore the themes of death and decay are presented in the short stories. To be more specific they are mostly concerned with the undead and the fine line between living and dying. Both works are about the postponement of death and its proof to society.
First of all what is most noticeable regarding the differences between the two short stories are the narrators. They differ immensely in their representation.In Greene’s
Proof Positive the events are described by a third person narrator. The character of Colonel Crashaw, the President of the Psychical Society, has a very special function. The reader is extremely influenced by his skeptical and judgmental thoughts as well as the negative attitude towards the character of Major Weaver. To Colonel Crashaw the afternoon he had spent in the Music Rooms Spa becausehe “[…] had received a note […] [which] asked urgently for a special meeting of the society.” (Greene, 1) had been full of boredom, disappointment and an unfortunate vexation.The recipient is being influenced throughout the narrative by Crashaw’s state of “pity and irritation” (Greene, 1). On could say that the Colonel’s mood is almost forced on the addressee. What seems rather bewildering is the fact that the Psychic Society, which by name deals with paranormality, is not at all interested in what Major Philip Weaver has to tell them. Everyone is rather bored or just “put[s] a show of attention.”(Greene, 1).
Poe on the other hand uses a first person narrator in order to give the reader the impression that the plot is not consequently just fictional but a true report on an unprecedented scientific experiment.In The Facts in The Case of Valdemar the reader gets a whole different view through the eyes of the objective ‘observer’P----- who depicts the events in a very chronological and detailed way. For this reason he conveys the emotions of curiosity, fear, surprise and disgust very authentically. Though the character of P----- only wants to “give the facts – as far as I comprehend them myself. […] either condensed or copied verbatim.” (Poe, 1, 3) in order to avoid “unpleasant misinterpretations” (Poe, 1)he makes the reader curious, excited and scared all at once. Despite this difference we find in each of the short stories one character who makes the attempt to proof to a group of victims something fantastic