I loved Graham Greene’s The Third Man, and I am very excited to watch the movie. This book painted such a vivid picture for me, and as I read it I imagined every old school detective movie I had ever seen. The vivid pictures that this novel paints also shows a side of Europe post WWII that I hadn’t thought about that often. This novel shows the aftermath of war, and how torn and divided the county still was despite the Allied victory.
The setting of the story threw me off because the narrator explicitly tells the readers what a mess the setting is in the aftermath of war. The reader is confronted with a Vienna that is completely divided between the victors, “You must have an impression at least of the background- the smashed dreary city of Vienna divided up in zones among the four powers” (Greene 14). I think that this puts into perspective for the reader how devastated Europe really was by the war, and how it affected Europe in ways that many people might not think of. This division within the city created a perfect environment for crimes to take place. It seemed like despite being “allies,” that the law enforcement was not really able to work together effectively, and this turned Vienna into a place where crime could thrive. The disconnect between the police is seen clearly, and comically, when they are detaining Anna, and it seems that each officer and sector has his own agenda, “The Russian, you see, refused to leave the room; the American wouldn’t leave a girl unprotected, and the Frenchman- well, I think the Frenchman must have thought it was fun,” (Greene 121). There is so much discord among the Allies that it seems hard to believe they are actually allies.
This disconnect really makes an opportunity for crime to thrive. I don’t think this excuses the severity of the racket that Lime was involved with, but I do think Vienna was the perfect place for him to commit these horrible crimes. The narrator emphasizes how divided the city is constantly throughout the novel. This repetitive image makes me wonder if Greene was commenting on the state of Europe after the war, and if anything could have been done to prevent or better the situation.
Greene, Graham. The Third Man. 1949. Penguin Books, 1977.