Our Father’ and ‘Hail Marys’ while she dressed, when she remembered . What was the good of praying now? Hale knew, before he had good versus evil essay in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him’.
This powerful and sinister sentence is the opening line of Brighton Rock and the start of a gripping thriller. The two opposing characters in the ‘Good versus Evil’ struggle are Pinkie and Ida. It is interesting and ironic that the evil Pinkie is the ‘Roman’. He nurtures vice, although he realises, after his first taste of alcohol that ‘You could lose vice as easily as you could lose virtue’, and chooses Hell over Heaven: ‘Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust’. Pinkie is appalled at the idea of sexual contact: ‘a prick of sexual desire disturbed him like a sickness .
He felt desire move again, like nausea in the belly’. This is partly a result of having watched his parents’ weekly sexual activities while he was a child. In order to consummate his marriage he needs to tell both Rose and himself that they are committing a mortal sin because they were not married in church. It’s a mortal sin, he said, getting what savour there was out of innocence, trying to taste God in the mouth . Pinkie also comes to believe that Hell is all around him, it is part of his life.
He is responsible for two murders, and is compelled to marry Rose to prevent her from giving evidence. Ida on the other hand is not a church-goer: ‘life was so important. She didn’t believe in heaven or hell, only in ghosts, ouija boards, tables which rapped’. When Rose talks of confession and repentance, she replies ‘That’s just religion’. Then later, ‘I know one thing you don’t. I know the difference between Right and Wrong’.
Life was sunlight on brass bedposts, Ruby port, the leap of the heart when the outsider you have backed passes the post . Death shocked her, life was so important. Ida is late thirties or early forties, large and ebullient. Pinkie prides himself on not being, or trying not to be, superstitious: ‘If I was one of those crazy geezers who touch wood, throw salt, won’t go under ladders’. Pinkie is not driven by self-confidence – almost the opposite. He was a bully at school, always trying to prove he was tougher than another child.
The poison twisted in the Boy’s veins. He had to show someone he was – a man. His only thought after his first sexual encounter is not of the pleasure but that ‘he had exposed himself and nobody had laughed’. He is driven by a need to feel safe.
When he believes Spicer has been killed by Colleoni’s men, his ‘thoughts inevitably came back with a sense of relief . It was impossible to repent of something which made him safe’. In summary, Ida is confident, irreligious but determined to do what is right, while Pinkie, the Catholic, is determined to be damned. As Rose’s confessor says at end of the book, ‘a Catholic is more capable of evil than anyone’. It is perhaps surprising then that Green was known as a ‘Catholic writer’ and not an ‘Anti-Catholic writer’. Ida takes on the role of avenging angel.