Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock Part III, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Spicer is out walking, trying to calm his frayed nerves, but everywhere he goes and everything he sees reminds him of Hale’s murder and the inquest, the conclusions of which make no sense to him. He worries constantly that the truth will come out. He pins the last shreds of his sanity on the races starting soon. They’re his only hope for peace. While he ponders the Hale case, he runs into Crab, a thin man whose appearance has changed radically since Spicer last saw him, when he and the rest of Kite’s gang ran him out of town. He has had his Jewish characteristics erased. His nose is straightened and scarred. His hair is red. Greene writes that he’d been a Jew once, but that a hairdresser and surgeon had taken care of that.
Like Ida, Spicer is preoccupied with Hale’s death and the trial that wrongly exonerated him and the rest of Pinkie’s gang. His guilty conscience tortures him, and he, too, is counting on the horse races to save him. While Ida needs Black Boy to come through for the money, Spicer pines for the excitement of the season to chase away his fears. Spicer’s impressions of Crab’s appearance are telling as they hint at the anti-Semitic sentiment that was so pervasive throughout Europe during and leading up to World War II, which would cause Crab to feel he needed to change his appearance.
Themes
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Spicer asks Crab why he’s back in Brighton and if he had his looks changed out of fear of being killed. Crab says that Spicer should be respectful. He is now Colleoni’s right-hand man. Spicer says he better hope Pinkie doesn’t hear of his return. Crab informs Spicer that Pinkie is at the police station. Upon hearing that news, Spicer runs in a panic off toward Pinkie’s boarding house. Pinkie isn’t there. The room looks abandoned. Spicer sees himself in the mirror and in that reflection sees a man who looks like he might rat his friends out to the cops.
It would seem that, in this meeting of Spicer and Crab, the latter would be at a tactical disadvantage since the last time the two men saw each other, Crab was on the run. In the meantime, though, Crab has gained power and clout, whereas Spicer is now the one running scared. Crab isn’t the only one whose appearance has changed. Spicer now sees a rat when he looks in the mirror.
Themes
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Spicer stands in Pinkie’s empty apartment and thinks of Nottingham where he hopes someday to open his own pub. He realizes, though, that Pinkie and the rest will never let him leave. He knows too much. He is stuck in the mob forever. Staring down the boardinghouse’s winding staircase, he sees an old-fashioned telephone. It starts to ring.
Spicer’s dreams are simple and modest. For many men, opening a pub would not be out of the realm of possibility, but Spicer, whom Pinkie dismissed earlier as a “philosopher,” understands that he is trapped. 
Themes
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Spicer puts off answering the phone, thinking he can’t handle more bad news, but no one else comes to get it, not even the boarding house owner, Frank, so eventually he picks up, and it’s Rose asking for Pinkie. Spicer gets increasingly agitated as she talks. She says that Pinkie asked her to call if anyone ever came by asking questions, and that a woman and a man did come by and now she needs to talk to him. Spicer, beginning to sweat, drops the receiver and leaves the boarding house, swearing to himself that he will not squeal.
Spicer reacts to Rose’s phone call as one might to a summons from beyond the grave. His main fear now is not being caught for Hale’s murder, it’s that he might be tempted to turn traitor in order to save his own skin. Pinkie has accused Spicer of being a coward in the past. It would seem that Spicer internalized that accusation and is now worried that Pinkie was right about him all along.
Themes
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
Get the entire Brighton Rock LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Spicer walks quickly down to the pier, telling himself over and over that he will not go to the cops. Still, it wasn’t his idea to kill Hale, which, in his mind, makes him a relative innocent in the whole affair. He trips on a shingle and nearly falls, catching himself on some rocks that are cold with sea wind and salt water. The nearby shops are closed, but the peepshows and carnival games are still going. A seagull heads straight for his face, banking fast to miss him. Spicer wonders what Rose knows and, stationing himself near the women’s lavatory, keeps his eye out for the police.  What he sees instead are tourists heading to the aquarium and cheap stores selling candy, namely Brighton rock.
Spicer’s claims to innocence are shaky at best. Just because he didn’t want to murder the man does not make him blameless. That is why he nearly plunges into the sea on his panicked walk down the pier. He is stumbling and flailing, hoping for salvation and relief that will never come. Pinkie warned Spicer not to revisit the scene of Hale’s murder, but in this moment of desperation and paranoia, he is doing just that.
Themes
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon