As from the beginning of the novel, it becomes quite clear that what Scobie feels for his wife Louise is not really love but a sense of pity and responsibility. Louise has grown to love Scobie over the years, but Scobie has not had the same feeling towards her. Louise understands that side of him and accepts that his ‘ I love you’s ‘are empty hearted.
His sens of love towards her is more of an inherited responsibility of marriage and so he would do anything to make her happy, even at the cost of his peace of mind. This can be seen when Scobie accepts money from Yusef to be able to send Louise away to South Africa in order to make her happy.
While Louise is away, Scobie starts an affair with Helen Rolt, a young widow who he met as a victim of a shipwreck due to the war. Again, he does not ‘love’ Helen, but he pities her because of all she has been through and he feels responsible for her happiness.
When Louise returns to Sierra Leone, Scobie continues his affair with Helen and he now feels responsible for both women. This obligation that he feels makes him turn to God. In the novel, the reader sees Scobie struggle between ending his relationship with Helen, and being a good catholic and husband to Louise, yet feeling responsible for Helen’s happiness also.
However, it is only her weakness and vulnerability that makes Louise attractive to Scobie. In fact, when she is happy that he is going to be promoted to commissioner he finds her unattractive as she is no longer weak and sad. It’s almost as if when Louise is happy, Scobie finds no place in their marriage.
Throughout the whole novel it is evident that Louise is aware that what Scobie feels towards her is not love but responsibility. It’s almost as though Scobie is incapable of loving anybody. However the whole novel is based on this, as if Scobie hadn’t pleased Louise and sent her away, he would...