To betray love and friendship, to betray a vision or an illusion, or to betray one’s own character and objectives is to leave a horrible stain on literature. Fanatical power resulting from love or blind faith can also lead to betrayal, which is part of the human condition and is often misunderstood.
Gabriel, the main character in my novel Breaking Light, thinks he’s betrayed his best buddy Michael. But as he matures, he realizes that he has compromised himself; that repression of self is a type of deceit. Because of his ongoing quest for self-acceptance, he’s learning that the adults who had the power to help him and Michael as children were betrayed by their own arrogance, conceit, and narcissism. Then again, they were only human after all.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Any of Greene’s novels would have sufficed, as if there ever was a master of betrayal fiction. The 1951 novel The End of the Affair is a heartbreaking tale of love torn apart by Catholic guilt and jealously. Novelist Greene had an affair with Lady Catherine Walston during World War II and the story is based partially on that relationship. The End of the Affair takes on new significance when Maurice Bendrix, the envious ex-lover, realizes that his greatest competition for Sarah Miles’ affection is God.
Medea by Euripides
In terms of understanding human and divine motivation, there is nothing like a Greek myth. While betrayal occurs frequently in Greek mythology, it rarely has the same level of fury and devastation as in Euripides’ well-known revenge drama. When Jason betrays and abandons Medea for a younger lady, Medea is devastated. Medea, enraged, indignant, and extremely volatile, kills her own children. It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening in today’s world, but it’s not unheard of. This tragedy’s depiction of gender and “otherness” themes, as well as the conflict between Jason and Medea as a married couple, is done with considerable psychological insight and irony.
Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
There’s a line between loyalty and treachery in a poem, and Olds describes it as the “spectrum of loyalty and betrayal,” where loyalty is a refusal to speak the truth and betrayal is the complete disclosure of the inner lives of friends, family members, and oneself. Stag’s Leap is a memoir about a woman’s journey to divorce after her spouse deserted her in favor of someone else. In these poems, the author expresses her deepest thoughts and feelings on sex, love, life, and betrayal. Rather than following Medea’s example and wreaking havoc on her former spouse, Olds shows compassion and gratitude for her newfound independence.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Mr. Stevens, the narrator of The Remains of the Day, is restrained when compared to Medea or anybody else. Darlington Hall Butler Mr. Stevens has decided to pay a visit to his old colleague, Miss Kenton, whom he hadn’t seen in 20 years. Mr. Stevens has always lived by the idea of “greatness,” and restraint, along with dignity and loyalty, is a component of that. However, the book closes with the elderly butler realizing that the ideals that have supported him have also deceived him.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The story of Miss Jean Brodie, a charismatic Edinburgh schoolteacher with a godlike authority and fascist leanings, shows Muriel Spark’s Calvinist influence. A story of Brodie’s exploitation of her special girls – her crème de la crème – and her pupil Sandy’s treachery is saved by Spark’s brilliant wit and graceful wording.
City of Angels; or, the Overcoat of Dr Freud by Christa Wolf
Christa Wolf, a writer and literary critic, was a member of the Bund Deutscher Mädchen, the female version of the Hitler Youth, when she was a kid in Nazi Germany. She ended herself in East Germany after the war, where she rose through the ranks of the Communist party. In 1989, just a few months before the Berlin Wall fell, she decided to leave the party. Wolf’s final book, City of Angels, published in 2010, the year before her death, was an attempt to explain why she had been spying on East German writers from 1959 to 1963. She insists she has no recollection of her encounters with Stasi operatives. For her, the Freudian garment of denial was a necessity for coping with the realities of life. Wolf is an excellent writer, and her self-examination reveals all of her deceptions and misunderstandings. After reading this intriguing and disturbing book, I wonder if anyone has the right to criticize her.
In Parenthesis by David Jones
It is possible to read any story of World War I as a testimonial to humanity’s betrayal. Eliot named this 1937 piece of poetry and prose “a work of brilliance” in his 1961 preface to In Parenthesis (first published in 1937). There is an engaging account of Mametz Wood’s attack on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, which follows John Ball, a soldier in a Welsh-English rifle battalion. In the midst of the drudgery and terror of trench combat, there are references to English and Welsh mythology. With a keen eye for humanity’s suffering, the author examines the devastation wrought by war.
Shroud by John Banville
Cass Cleave’s letter to Alex Vander, the shudder-inducing protagonist of Shroud, causes him to think that she intends to betray him. However, in this tale of deceit, treachery is a difficult concept to grasp. “I’ve been lying all my life. In order to escape, to be adored, to be placed and to have power, I lied. In order to avoid being deported by the Nazis as a young man, Alex took on the identity of a man named Vander. “It was a way of life,” he adds. You’ll never know who or what you’ve betrayed in this dark and twisted story about identity, duplicity, and self-delusion.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
Spies are professional liars. Because of their trade’s secrecy, they’re prone to the kind of duplicity where one aspect of their character is constantly betraying the other. Many of Le Carré’s characters are able to communicate this intricacy of deception, but in my opinion, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold is his best work. With a tormented war veteran in dreary cityscapes, feasting on alcohol and trying to do the right thing, trying and failing to save the love of his life, this story is reminiscent of film noir. It was written in 1963. Alec Leamas, a British spy, is given one more mission before he is brought back “from the cold.” He is forced to make a life-or-death decision as he peels back the layers of deception and betrayal.
Dear Life by Alice Munro
Munro has a style of writing about life that is uncompromising. The Maitland River in her native Ontario runs through her short works, bringing betrayals of all sizes to the forefront. Munro returns to the farm “at the end of a long trip” in her 2012 collection’s title story, “Dear Life.” When she left her family and home to flee, this is where she ended up. It is a type of treachery to utilize her family’s history as material for her writing, according to Sharon Olds’s spectrum. This is how Dear Life ends: “We say that some things cannot be forgiven, or that we will never be able to forgive ourselves. Nevertheless, we do – we do it every day.