‘Two Gentle People’ by Graham Greene

Two Gentle People by Graham Greene, 1967

The magic trick:

Using a brief coda to give the reader more insights into the lives of the central two characters

We’re off to England this week.

This story, in fact, is set in Paris. But it’s Graham Greene. It qualifies as sufficiently English.

“Two Gentle People” introduces us to, well, it introduces us to two gentle people. They meet by chance on a park bench. They hit it off reasonably well. But they’re both married. Decision, decisions.

So we follow them through one day.

Then the story breaks. We follow each one home, separately, and get a window into what each of their marriages is like. These sections are very brief – a couple paragraph per marriage. But they magnify our insights into the decisions made.

And that’s quite a trick on Greene’s part.

The selection:

“Are you married?” he asked, but only to put her at her ease, for he could see her ring.

“Yes.”

By this time they seemed to know a great deal about each other, and he felt it was churlish not to surrender his identity. He said, “My name is Greaves. Henry C. Greaves.”

“Mine is Marie-Claire. Marie-Claire Duval.”

“What a lovely afternoon it has been,” the man called Greaves said.

“But it gets a little cold when the sun sinks.” They escaped from each other again with regret.

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