EL5221 Discussion: Session 9

On Cohesion

Discussion date: 17th October 2006


Analyse the following extract from Graham Greene’s ‘The Basement Room’ in relation to all the aspects of cohesion that you have studied.

Relevant lecture notes: nos. 17, 18a, 18b, 18c, 18d.


    Philip Lane went downstairs and pushed at the baize door; he looked into the pantry, but Baines was not there, then he set foot for the first time on the stairs to the basement. Again he had the sense: this is life. All his seven nursery years vibrated with the strange, the new experience. His crowded busy brain was like a city which feels the earth tremble at a distant earthquake shock. He was apprehensive, but he was happier than he had ever been. Everything was more important than before.
    Baines was reading a newspaper in his shirt-sleeves. He said, ‘Come in, Phil, and make yourself at home. Wait a moment and I’ll do the honours,’ and going to a white cleaned cupboard he brought out a bottle of ginger-beer and half a Dundee cake. ‘Half-past eleven in the morning,’ Baines said. ‘It’s opening time, my boy,’ and he cut the cake and poured out the ginger-beer. He was more genial than Philip had ever known him, more at his ease, a man in his own home.
    ‘Shall I call Mrs. Baines?’ Philip asked, and he was glad when Baines said no. She was busy. She liked to be busy, so why interfere with her pleasure?
    ‘A spot of drink at half-past eleven,’ Baines said, pouring himself out a glass of ginger-beer, ‘gives an appetite for chop and does no man any harm.’
    ‘A chop?’ Philip asked.
    ‘Old Coasters,’ Baines said, ‘call all food chop.’
    ‘But it’s not a chop?’
    ‘Well, it might be, you know, cooked with palm oil. And then some paw-paw to follow.’
    Philip looked out of the basement window at the dry stone yard, the ash-can and the legs going up and down beyond the railings.
    ‘Was it hot there?’
    ‘Ah, you never felt such heat. Not a nice heat, mind, like you get in the park on a day like this. Wet.’ Baines said, ‘corruption’ He cut himself a slice of cake. ‘Smelling of rot,’ Baines said, rolling his eyes round the small basement room, from clean cupboard to clean cupboard, the sense of bareness, of nowhere to hide a man’s secrets. With an air of regret for something lost he took a long draught of ginger-beer. ‘Why did father live out there?’
    ‘It was his job,’ Baines said, ‘same as this is mine now. And it was mine then too. It was a man’s job. You wouldn’t believe it now, but I’ve had forty niggers under me, doing what I told them to.’
    ‘Why did you leave?’
    ‘I married Mrs. Baines.’
    Philip took the slice of Dundee cake in his hand and munched it round the room. He felt very old, independent and judicial; he was aware that Baines was talking to him as man to man. He never called him Master Philip as Mrs. Baines did, who was servile when she was not authoritative.


Last revised: 10 August 2006.