Places: The Honorary Consul

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1973

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Early to mid-1970’s

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Paraná River

*Paraná Honorary Consul, TheRiver. River that forms part of the border between Paraguay and Argentina. The river also serves as a device that connects Dr. Eduardo Plarr’s childhood memories and his current involvement in the kidnapping of a British honorary consul by Paraguayan rebels. Plarr was born near the river, of an English father and an Argentine mother. After studying to become a physician in Buenos Aires, Plarr has returned to the river town of Corrientes in the region of his birth. Thus, the Paraná becomes a symbol of cross-cultural movement while reinforcing the political enclosures that undermine family ties.

*Buenos Aires

*Buenos Aires. Argentina’s capital city which Plarr visits every three months to see his mother. After the British consul, Charley Fortnum, is kidnapped by Paraguayans who mistake him for the American ambassador, Plarr visits the British embassy in a futile quest to get the British government to put pressure on the Paraguayan government to meet the rebels’ demands so that Fortnum will be freed.

Kidnapper’s hut

Kidnapper’s hut. Situated between the Plarr’s port city and the bend of the river, this mud hut consists of two sparse rooms. Charley Fortnum and his guards occupy one room, and the other room is used by the rest of the rebels. Plarr visits Fortnum there to treat a wound he receives while trying to escape. As both Fortnum and Plarr are cooped in this hut, Fortnum discovers that Plarr is the father of the child his wife is carrying and begins to understand “the tangle” of his unborn child’s ancestry.


Cemetery. Site of the funeral of Plarr, who is shot by the Argentine police when he tries to help resolve the kidnapping crisis. Fortnum is rescued, however, and attends the funeral accompanied by his wife, who is pregnant with Plarr’s baby. The scene is rich in dramatic irony. In his mind, Fortnum compares the funeral to the “diplomatic cocktails” that bring together select dignitaries, including Colonel Perez and the renowned author Jorge Julio Saavedra, who delivers the eulogy for Plarr. Fortnum and the readers know that Saavedra falsely accuses the rebels of killing Plarr to claim him as a local hero because of his Paraguayan ties.

BibliographyCouto, Maria. Graham Greene: On the Frontier. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Sees the novel as an exploration of social change among the liberation movements in Latin America. Excellent discussion of the role of personal faith in the struggle for dignity and freedom.De Vitis, A. A. Graham Greene. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1986. An excellent starting point for a consideration of Greene’s work. Analyzes structures and repeated themes throughout Greene’s canon. Updated to include Greene’s later novels.Miller, R. H. Understanding Graham Greene. Columbia: South Carolina University Press, 1990. An excellent introduction to themes in the novel. Treats the realism of the work at some length.Sharrock, Roger. Saints, Sinners and Comedians: The Novels of Graham Greene. Notre Dame, Ind.: Notre Dame University Press, 1984. Excellent treatment of the novel and its themes, particularly the theme of political commitment–“the political duty of a Christian in an unjust society.”Thomas, Brian. An Underground Fate: The Idiom of Romance in the Later Novels of Graham Greene. Athens: Georgia University Press, 1988. Insightful treatment of the romantic aspects of The Honorary Consul. Thomas shows how Greene deals with contemporary political problems that are intricately bound in Christian symbolism.
Categories: Places