Our Man in Havana (Greene)

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Our Man in Havana:

1. What kind of man is Wormold? Do you consider him heroic? Or would you describe him as a Walter Mitty type, at heart a decent but vacuous being? Why would Graham have made Wormold the novel's protagonist?

2. Why does Wormold agree to accept Hawthorne's proposal to become an agent for the British government? If he had refused, what might have happened?

3. What is the joke about the vacuum cleaners that Wormold sells...as does Mr. Carter. Don't neglect to talk about the product names.

4. Hasselbacher is perhaps the most interesting character in the novel, certainly his pithy sayings are. How would you describe his world view or philosophy toward life? What does he mean when he says to Wormold? ...

You are interested in a person, not in life,
and people die or leave us....But if you're
interested in life, it never lets you down.

Hasselbacher also compares people to crossword puzzles. Can you explain, or expand on, that comparison? Do you agree with his observation? What are some other observations of his that strike you?

5. Follow-up to Question #4: Who is Dr. Hasselbacher—is he an agent? Or is he an innocent by-stander who gets swept up in Wormwold's intrigue? How does he become involved with Raoul? How does he know to warn Wormold about the European Traders' Association luncheon? Is Hasselbacher a martyr of sorts (consider the quotation in Question #4)?

6. What do you think of Beatrice? Why was she not sad to see her husband leave her? Why is she so delighted when Wormold confesses to her that his spying operation has been a sham?

7. What does the last line of the novel mean—and what precipitates Beatrice's thought? What does the future hold for their relationship?

8. Why isn't Wormold summarily fired? Why does the service keep him on—and even award him the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

9. In what way is this novel a sly comment on the work of an author, writing a novel?

10. This is a work of satire. What is Graham satirizing? Do you consider this a cyncical novel? Is it humorous? Consider the era in which this novel was written...and also the events of the Cuban missle crisis three years after the novel's publication.

11. Does Captain Segura represent pure evil?

12. Consider James Cain's 1958 review in the New York Times (see "Book Reviews" above). Do you agree with his assessment of this novel...or does he miss the mark?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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