Significance of the Title Brighton Rock
The title of the novel Brighton Rock should be considered as a short snappy title that is immediately related to story of the novel. The whole narration of the novel revolves round the location of Brighton. J. M. Coetzee says, “Brighton was a nest of criminal activity, centring on its-racetrack. It was this aspect of Brighton that drew Graham Greene as a professional writer. He made numbers of trips to Brighton to soak in the atmosphere and gather material.” The leading character Pinkie was not ready to move anywhere else because he felt he is a true Brighton. He told Dallow: ‘T’d feel a stranger away from here…I suppose I’m real Brighton.” The meaning of the title becomes more influential when Pinkie compared himself to the Rock ‘with Brighton all the way through’ in a parochial boast. “The title is a reference to a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts, used as a metaphor for human character. The novel ties into Greene’s earlier entertainment: A Gun for Sale, the murder of mob boss Kite, mentioned in A Gun for Sale, allows Pinkie to take over his mob and thus sets the events of the novel in motion (Wikipedia)
Moreover, Brighton always attracted the attention of the writers because of the reputation of its resorts and life of its people. People preferred to go there for vacations to enjoy the race and sea-side. In 1930s Brighton was known for the sticks of rock sold there which were considered as a semi-luxury. Even Rose demanded a stick of Brighton rock as a gift on her wedding day, “I’d like a stick of Brighton rock.” Brighton is one of the British coastal towns which were famous as a holiday destination. The phrase used in the very second sentence of the novel ‘holiday crowd’ is not a coincidence but it is the reality of Brighton’s history and economy. “With his inky fingers and his bitten nails his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong-belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd.”(3)
George IV built a pleasure house in Brighton named as Prince Regent but Brighton got popularity with the arrival of Train in 1841. It is near London and has beautiful and enjoyable beaches that attract people to make day trips or short stays at Brighton without spending a good amount of money. When Brighton Rock was published in 1938, Brighton used to be pleasure town for middle-class people. Its racecourse became a point of making money for gangsters like Pinkie and Colleoni.
Greene found it as an appropriate title for the novel because it is right place to picturize a murder thriller. In the dark streets Brighton, it was easy to portray the fights of the two gangs who wanted to overpower each other. For time being, it is not clear how Hale died because Pinkie and his gang believed that they had killed him but the cops declared it as a natural death. It seemed that Hale is died of fear and they murdered dead Hale. The reader gets hints how Pinkie and his friends killed Hale when Pinkie revisited that place with Rose.
“He looked around the little pink barred cell as if he owned it; his money owned it, it was stamped with footmarks a particular patch of floor had eternal importance if the cash register had been moved he’d have noticed it. What’s that? he asked and nodded at a box, the only unfamiliar object ‘It’s broken rock, she said, ‘going cheap.”
‘From the maker’s?’
‘No’ It got broken’ some clumsy fools-‘ she complained. I wish I knew who…” (195)
The Kiosk was selling souvenir and rock in underpass where Pinkie’s gang murdered Hale. A seller informed them that there were some clumsy fools who destroyed his rock and now he have to sell them on cheap rates. It was Pinkie and his mob who did all that mess while killing Hale.
Moreover, Brighton becomes a metaphorical device to present the concept of eternal realities of heaven and hell. While Nelson Place and Paradise Piece represent the view of hell, Cosmopolitan and clubs picturize the scene of heaven. Pinkie claimed to be a true Brighton who knew every nook and corner of it, there were places he did not want to go. When he went to the house of Rose to meet her parents, Greene gives the minute details of the streets and buildings of Paradise Piece.
“Past the Albert Hostel (Good Accommodation for Travellers’) and there he was, on the top of the hill, in the thick of the bombardment-a flapping gutter, cracked windows, an iron bedstead in a front garden the size of a tabletop. Half Paradise Piece had been torn up as if by bomb bursts; the children played about the steep slope of rubble; a piece of fireplace showed houses had once been there, and a municipal notice announced new flats on a post stuck in the torn gravel and asphalt facing the little dingy damaged row, all that was left of Paradise Piece. His home was gone: a flat place among the rubble may have marked, its hearth; the room out the bend of the stairs where the Saturday night exercise had taken place was now just air. He wondered with horror whether it all had to be built again for him; it looked better as air.” (154)
There is another reason to choose this title because Brighton rock gives chance to prove Ida’s analogy of human nature. She states; “Oh, no they don’t…I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock; bite it all the way down. That’s human nature.” Ida tried to make Rose understand that Pinkie is a dangerous man and he will never change. Pinkie also got his chance to change but he refused. Andrew Moore comments: “This view is essentially pessimistic, suggesting that the only good people are those who are good to begin with. In the eternal context (in which Ida has no real belief) this would mean that the capacity of the individual to respond to God’s mercy (and thus damnation and salvation) are determined in advance by God’s will. Crudely, whether one is saved or damned, in terms of Ida’s simile, depends on what God has written on one’s character or soul.”
Brighton is presented as any sea-side city with amusements, sideshows, races, kiosks selling souvenirs and photographers clicking the picture at the pier. While Ida came here to enjoy holiday and didn’t find anything strange, Hale felt isolated and fear amid all the happy crowd of Whitsun. “A supposedly festive location often, by way of contrast, as here, may prove highly effective as the setting for a story about evil and crime. On the day of the Whitsun bank holiday, though the sun shines there is a chill wind; the literal coldness becoming a metaphor for Hale’s fear and sense of isolation and danger.” (Moore) While the tourists enjoyed the sea-side and racetracks, they were ignorant of the impoverished streets behind it. The story of Pinkie still appeals to the urban youth with his stubborn nature to stand against the suave gang leader Colleoni.