Brighton Rock


Graham Greene

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Pride and Ambition Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Catholicism Theme Icon
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Sex and Shame Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Brighton Rock, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon

Pinkie and Ida might seem, at first glance, to be foils. Pinkie is a criminal and a Catholic, Ida an upstanding member of the community who puts more stock in superstition and the Ouija board than she does in God-given grace or the possibility of eternal damnation. The two are intimately connected, though, by the pride they take in their own accomplishments and the craven nature of their individual ambition.

Pinkie takes pride in the fact that he has managed at such a young age to leave behind his past as a poverty-stricken street kid to become the head of a successful crime syndicate. However, his ambitions get in the way of his finding true happiness, which, Greene makes clear, might have been possible with Rose if Pinkie could only have set aside his pride and need to rise for long enough to honor Rose’s love and its healing power.  Pinkie’s pride in his own cleverness blinds him to the fact that Rose knew all along that he was behind Hale’s killing; she just didn’t care.

What Pinkie wants most is to be another Mr. Colleoni. While on the cliff near Peacehaven with Rose, “his pride coiled like a watch spring round the thought that he wasn’t deceived, that he wasn’t going to give himself up to marriage and the birth of children. He was going to be where Colleoni was and higher…”

Colleoni, though, is older, richer, and immeasurably more powerful than Pinkie. From his luxurious room in the Cosmopolitan, Colleoni acts like a man who owns the visible world, and he does. The police are on his side. The inspector even suggests to Pinkie that he get out of organized crime and leave what’s left of the business to Colleoni. Pinkie, of course, bristles at such a suggestion. He is willing to kill and keep killing to avoid the appearance of mediocrity.

Ida, meanwhile, defies the contempt of the police and the weak protestations of Phil Corkery to let the matter of Hale’s murder drop because she thinks she is uniquely qualified to bring Pinkie and his gang to justice.  Half-drunk for the bulk of the novel, Ida plunges forward with her investigation into Hale’s death, convinced that whatever she does is beyond reproach because it is in the pursuit of right. She knows nothing of Kite’s death or the tension between Colleoni’s gang and Pinkie’s. She simply trusts her own instincts, because, as Greene writes, “The world was a good place if you didn’t weaken. She was like the chariot in a triumph—behind her were all the big battalions—right’s right, an eye for an eye, when you want to do a thing well, do it yourself.”

She rationalizes her monomania because it allows her to “save” Rose, but Rose does not want to be saved, especially not by a woman like Ida, who Rose describes as too ignorant and unkind to be damned. Even Ida’s friend Clarence calls her “a terrible woman” for all her efforts in the Hale affair.

As the novel comes to a close, Ida congratulates herself on solving a crime that stumped police and snowed the public. She announces to her friends at Henekey’s bar that she has also delivered Rose safely into the bosom of her family. The irony is rich here. If it weren’t for Ida’s relentless hounding of Pinkie, the bloodshed might have ended with Hale, and Spicer and Pinkie might still be alive. Additionally, Rose despises her parents. Home is the last place she would want to be.

Greene suggests that it was pride that doomed Charles Hale, the catalyst of all the violence and heart ache that follows. Hale took a great deal of pride in his job at the Messenger and the hard work it took to climb the ladder from lowly paper seller to reporter. It was in his capacity as a reporter that he became involved with Kite and, in exposing Kite’s illegal activities, got Kite killed and set Pinkie on Hale’s trail. “He was damned, [Hale] told himself with the temporary courage of another whisky, if he’d let that mob frighten him into spoiling his job. What could they do while he had people round him? They hadn’t the nerve to kill him in broad day before witnesses; he was safe with the fifty thousand visitors.” They do have the nerve, of course, although they kill him discreetly in a candy shop under the pier.

The sin of pride sets the violent events of the novel in action and it brings them to just as violent of a close. Pinkie’s need to advance in the mob makes it impossible for him to grasp his only chance at real happiness and fulfillment with Rose, and Ida’s misplaced confidence in her own abilities as a sleuth results not in justice but in tragedy.

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Pride and Ambition Quotes in Brighton Rock

Below you will find the important quotes in Brighton Rock related to the theme of Pride and Ambition.
Part I, Chapter 2 Quotes

He only felt his loneliness after his third gin; until then he despised the crowd, but afterwards he felt his kinship. He had come out of the same streets, but he was condemned by his higher pay to pretend to want other things, and all the time the piers, the peep shows pulled at his heart. He wanted to get back—but all he could do was to carry his sneer along the front, the badge of loneliness.

Related Characters: Charles “Fred” Hale (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The imagination hadn’t awoken. That was his strength. He couldn’t see through other people’s eyes or feel with their nerves. Only the music made him uneasy, the catgut vibrating in the heart; it was like nerves losing their freshness, it was like age coming on, other people’s experience battering on the brain.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker)
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

The inhuman voice whistled round the gallery and the Boy sat silent. It was he this time who was being warned; life held the vitriol bottle and warned him: I’ll spoil your looks. It spoke to him in the music, and when he protested that he for one would never get mixed up, the music had its own retort at hand: ‘You can’t always help it. It sort of comes that way.’

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

He watched her with his soured virginity, as one might watch a draught of medicine offered that one would never, never take; one would die first—or let others die. The chalky dust blew up round the windows.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

They lay on the chalk bank side by side with a common geography and a little hate mixed with his contempt. He thought he had made his escape, and here his home was: back beside him, making claims.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

She was sixteen, but this was how she might have looked after years of marriage, of the childbirth and the daily quarrel: they had reached death and it affected them like age.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose (speaker)
Explanation and Analysis:
Part I, Chapter 3 Quotes

She smelt of soap and wine: comfort and peace and a slow sleepy physical enjoyment, a touch of the nursery and the mother, stole from the big

tipsy mouth, the magnificent breasts and legs, and reached Hale's withered and frightened and bitter little brain.

Related Characters: Charles “Fred” Hale (speaker), Ida “Lily” Arnold
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

She came out of the crematorium, and there from the twin towers above her head fumed the very last of Fred, a thin stream of grey smoke from the ovens. People passing up the flowery suburban road looked up and noted the smoke; it had been a busy day at the furnaces. Fred dropped in indistinguishable grey ash on the pink blossoms: he became part of the smoke nuisance over London, and Ida wept.

Related Characters: Ida “Lily” Arnold (speaker), Charles “Fred” Hale
Related Symbols: Flowers and Dolls
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:

“Of course it’s true,” the Boy said. “What else could there be?” he went scornfully on. “Why,” he said, “it’s the only thing that fits. These atheists, they don’t know nothing. Of course there’s Hell. Flames and damnation,” he said with his eyes on the dark shifting water and the lightning and the lamps going out above the black struts of the Palace Pier, “torments.”

“And Heaven too,” Rose said with anxiety while the rain fell interminably


“Oh, maybe,” the Boy said, “maybe.”

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

He trailed the clouds of his own glory after him: hell lay about him in his infancy. He was ready for more deaths.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Police Inspector
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

That was what happened to a man in the end: the stuffy room, the wakeful children, the Saturday night movements from the other bed. Was there no escape—anywhere—for anyone? It was worth murdering a world.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

The shadow of her sixteen-year-old face shifted in the moonlight on the wall. “Right and wrong. That’s what she talks about. I’ve heard her at the table. Right and wrong. As if she knew.” She whispered with contempt, “Oh, she won't burn. She couldn’t burn if she tried.”

Related Characters: Rose (speaker), Pinkie Brown, Ida “Lily” Arnold
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

He stood back and watched Rose awkwardly sign—his temporal

safety in return for two immortalities of pain. He had no doubt whatever that this was mortal sin, and he was filled with a kind of gloomy hilarity and pride. He saw himself now as a full grown man for whom the angels wept.

Related Characters: Pinkie Brown (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

“Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you'll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.”

Related Characters: Ida “Lily” Arnold (speaker), Rose
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis: