"The Third Man" suggests that sometimes it is necessary to put loyalty aside and betray a friend.

Essay by r0xleyCollege, UndergraduateA+, September 2005

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Carol Reed's direction of "The Third Man", coupled with Graham Greene's screenplay, continually thrust forward the notion that the betrayal of a friend is forgivable in the light of a greater good. However, what one considers the correct, moral course of action is totally dependant upon their preference of what is considered to be the pinnacle form of 'morality', that being the highest stranded of integrity a human can display. 'The Third Man' arguably considers the betrayal of a friend acceptable in light of the common good, and throughout the movie it is seen that the arguments for maintaining loyalty and friendship are slowly overridden by the notion of duty one feels in their pursuit of the 'right' course of action to take. Holly and Harry both display signs of betrayal to each over the course of the film; whether it is due to the sacrifice they feel they are required to make in order to achieve a higher stance of moral achievement, or rather in the latter's case, a lack of ethical consideration towards humanity in general - though it can clearly be seen in each case that loyalty can just as easily be discarded in the face of a more impertinent purpose.

The necessity of betrayal is most easily shown through Holly Martins, the protagonist of the story whose gullible, unquestioning and persistent nature all result in an easily swayed man who ultimately decides to be a "dumb, decoy duck" in order to capture Lime and thus cease the heavy weight on his own conscience. Holly, by becoming involved in matters of no concern to him, is emotionally experienced and too superficial to properly deal with the type of deep thought and contemplation involved in the decision between betrayal and the maintenance of the...