The Third Man

Graham Greene: "The third man"


Graham Greene was born in 1904. After Balliol College, Oxford, he worked as a sub - editor at "The Times" for four years. In 1935 he made a journey through Liberia described in "Journey Without Maps". Then he worked for the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico to report on religious persecution there. He wrote "The Lawless Roads" and later "The Power and the Glory". He became literary editor for the "Spectator" for one year and worked for the Foreign Office in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. He wrote several collections of short stories, travel books, plays, autobiographies, biographies and books for children. Many novels and short stories have been filmed. Graham Greene died in April 1991.


Rollo Martins.......... second - rate novelist Herr Kurtz.......... Lime’s friend
Benjamin Dexter..... Martins’ pseudonym Colonel Cooler... Lime’s friend
Harry Lime.............. Martins’ best friend Anna Schmidt..... Lime’s girlfriend
Colonel Calloway... policeman Dr. Winkler......... Lime’s doctor
Herr Koch............... Lime’s neighbour Mr. Crabbin........ porter of the Sacher’s


Rollo Martins comes to Vienna to meet his old school - friend Harry Lime. He is not at the airport so he takes a taxi to his flat. There Lime’s neighbour Herr Koch tells him that his friend died because he was run over by a car and that he died immediately. So Rollo goes to the funeral at the Central Cemetery. There he meets Colonel Calloway. They visit a bar and Martins tells him stories about his school - time with Harry. Calloway wants to tell him about Lime’s problems with the police but the novelist does not want to hear about them. Another policeman brings Martins to Sacher’s, where he was already expected as the writer Benjamin Dexter. The porter, his name is Crabbin, tells him about Lime’s girlfriend Anna Schmidt that she is an actress at the Josefstadt Theatre. In his room he gets a call from a friend of Harry Lime’s. His name is Kurtz and he was with Harry when he died. He tells him that he promised the dying Harry to look after Rollo. Martins wants to say that Herr Koch told him Harry was dead as once but he does not. They meet at the Old Vienna in the K├Ąrntnerstrasse. What he does not like is Herr Kurtz’s toupee. They talk about Harry’s accident. Kurtz tells him that there was another man when Lime died, it was Colonel Cooler, an American. The two men carried Harry to his flat and the doctor came to prove his death. After that Martins goes to the Josefstadt Theatre to speak with Anna Schmidt but she was told the same as Martins. Dr. Winkler also cannot tell him anything new. In the evening he goes to Herr Koch who tells him the same as before. He is sure that there were three men who carried the dead friend in his flat. But he cannot say who the third man was. In a bar in the American zone of Vienna he meets Colonel Cooler. He tells him the exactly the same things as Kurtz. Martins has drunk to much whisky and so he feels alone and visits Anna. They want to visit Harry’s flat. There are many people in front of the house because Herr Koch was murdered. A boy, whose father Martins is talking with, says, that a foreigner has done it. So Martins flees. At Sacher’s a porter tells him that Colonel Calloway is waiting for him at the hotelbar. But a soldier takes him to a literature - group which is arranged by Crabbin. He talks a bit with the listeners and gives signatures. Suddenly Colonel Calloway comes with the MP. Martins tries to escape but he looses his way and a soldier takes him to the policeman. Calloway tells him about Lime’s problems with the police, that he smuggled penicillin. He sold it and a number of children died because it was bad stuff. He was the boss and he worked with Kurtz and a man called Harbin. After Martins leaves Calloway he goes to the bar and after that he tells Anna everything about Harry’s career as a criminal. In the street he sees a man looking exactly like Harry and follows him, but soon Lime’s ghost disappears in a solid iron kiosk, not in a newspaper kiosk. Calloway whom Martins tells this story cannot believe that it was a ghost. He tells his assistant to dig up Harry Lime because he thinks that Harbin has been killed, not Lime. He believes that he wanted to see Anna and that he used the kiosk because there is the entrance to the main sewer. So he visits Kurtz to tell him that he wants to see Harry. Martins meets his old friend at the Big Wheel. Lime admits his friend that he is living in the Russian zone. Sometimes he must give information about people with false papers to the Russians. Martins goes to the police and tells Calloway everything Harry said to him. The two men are working together now. They only can catch him if he is in their zone. Harry always goes through the sewer between midnight and 2:00 a.m. because there is no police in the central sewer. In the night Martins is waiting in a caf├ę near the kiosk. When Lime appears Rollo and another policeman called Bates are following him. Martins goes before the policeman because he knows that Harry would not shoot at him. A gunfight begins in which Lime gets shot. The criminal is dead.

Narrative Art

This novel is written in the 1stperson singular, the narrator is Colonel Calloway. Graham Greene is easy to read because he was a reporter and he wrote as one. There was no special vocabulary.


You cannot really get a message from this novel because it is a crime - story and it only wants to entertain. But I think it shows very good how people can change. Two year before your best friend would do anything to help you but now he would do everything to get money. He would even sell you if you made a good price. It does not mean that you cannot trust anyone. Harry and Rollo are living in to cities, one of them is under occupation. When your friend lives near you one might know what he does.

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