of ¡§The Basement Room¡¨
Basement Room¡¨ is one of Graham Greene¡¦s short stories, told from a
third person narrator about a seven-year-old boy Philip¡¦s traumatic
experience in his childhood which influences his rest of life till his
dying hour at the age of sixty-seven.
Philip Lane lived in Belgravia with his parents, the butler
Baines and his wife. Without
nurses¡¦ restraint, Philip walked in this big house and enjoyed his
real life. (In the text he usually thought, ¡§This is life.¡¨)
He took a walk on the street, went window shopping, went to the
zoo, and tasted ginger-beer and Dunkee cake.
However, when Mr. Baines had an affair with Emmy and asked Philip
to keep the secret for them, Philip began his nightmare.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Baines also tried to coax Philip to tell her Mr.
Baines¡¦ extramarital relations. Philip
involved in this delicate and complex dilemma.
In the end of the story, Mrs. Baines was dead in an accident
while Philip still wondered who the girl was sixty years later.
expectation and disillusionment
the result of the
emotional trauma of the child
a physical and psychological journey
the sense of guilt
are two worlds in ¡§The Basement Room,¡¨ which Philip must recognize
and choose between, separated by a green baize door, an image Greene
used elsewhere to separate the world of innocence from the world of
knowledge, the world of love from the world of hate, the world of the
child from the world of the adult.
sense of guilt is the essential theme of all Greene¡¦s fiction¡K. The
protagonists . . . are essentially decent and haunted human beings who
are led into sins of violence and despair by the unexpectedness of some
From the third person narrator, we
come to see what happened to Philip.
For Philip, Mr. Baines is not only a butler, but also a hero, a
friend. For example, Mr.
Baines tells him about his past life on Old Coasters, gives him snacks
between meals. Philip wants
to escape from his nurse and nursery to lead his joyful life.
At this moment, Mr. Baines treats Philip as a man, not a child.
So, Philip is willing to help him and keep the secret.
Nevertheless, when he learns from adults¡¦ responsibilities and
hypocritical lives, he gets frightened.
The disillusionment is inevitable.
Here is the foreshadowing that implies his unfortunate life in
the near future, ¡§¡Khe was less sheltered than he had ever been;
other people¡¦s lives for the first time touched and pressed and
moulded. He would never escape that scene¡¨(p. 465). He cannot handle
it. He becomes angry with
himself for revealing Baines¡¦ secret unintentionally.
He is disappointed that adult¡¦s world is not as wonderful as he
thinks. ¡§Philip was angry
and miserable and disappointed because he hadn¡¦t kept Baines¡¦s
secret¡¨(p.469). Emmy¡¦s doubtful identity and Mrs. Baines pressure
make Philip loose his world of innocence. Mr.
Baines¡¦ kindness and loyalty to Philip, their journey to the zoo, on
the square and street those keep Philip far and far away from his
nursery, his protection. This
is both physical and psychological journey: a journey from his nursery
to the street, a journey from a kid to a man.
When Philip understands, it is too late to go back to his naïve
age. Moreover, he becomes
an isolated person, separated from this society, and cannot face his
obstacles in life. ¡§He
never opened his Meccano set again, never built anything, never created
anything, died the old dilettante, sixty years later with nothing to
show rather than preserve the memory of Mrs Baines¡¦s malicious voice
saying good night, ¡K¡¨(p.470). ¡§He
was divided by the fear and the attraction of life¡¨(p.471).
When he died, only his secretary kept him company (p.488).
failure of the man may be explained psychologically as the result of the
emotional trauma of the child. But
theologically Philip was responsible; and when he found himself getting
involved and retreated from relationships by extricating himself from
life, from love, from Baines [responsibility] with a merciless egotism,
he led a loveless life and damned himself for eternity.
in the story
housekeeper of the house
Getting everything in order, meticulous, loveless, but dutiful
Changeable (servile/ authoritative)
Witchlike (p. 286)