Saturday 10 November 2018

American market, American methods

England Made Me"She might have been waiting for her lover." So opens Graham Greene's book, England Made Me, in a railway station cafe, where Kate Ferrant is expecting to meet her twin brother Anthony. She intends to persuade her boss, Swedish industrialist Erik Krogh, to give a job to the feckless twin, who is unable to "open his mouth without lying."

Krogh employs Anthony as his bodyguard as he secretively works to ensure the success of his business expansion. The Swede's greed leads him to practise insider-trading, selling short, and suppressing workers' rights. It can be seen as a critical observation of international capitalism, as Krogh justifies his actions because "he had entered the American market, he had to be prepared for American methods." He believes "there's no such thing [-] as actual value. [-] There's only the price people are willing to pay."

This idea of value is also examined in the story's treatment of the class system. Krogh, from a working class background, can afford to buy all the trappings of the rich, upper-class circles to which his business success has brought him, but he struggles to fit in. He also struggles to appreciate art, literature and opera, seeing them only as reflections of wealth. Anthony, the product of a public school education, understands them but thinks they are boring and consequently worthless. He describes Wagner's Tristan und Isolde as "just about a fellow who sends his friend to bring him back a wife." He would rather go dancing with a girl at the Tivoli amusement park.

Anthony eventually becomes disillusioned with Sweden and recognizes his own inability to settle into a different class role, that of someone who must earn a living. He feels he is an "exile from his country and his class," without the resources to hold his place in society and "so conditioned" that he "hadn't the vigour to resist." He decides to return to England, but as with most Graham Greene stories, there is unlikely to be a happy ending.

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