Pragmatism, Love, and Morality: Triangular Reflections in Carol Reed's The Third Man


  • Laurie Calhoun The Independent Institute, Oakland, California, USA



Carol Reed, pragmatism, love, morality, duty, justice, aesthetics


Carol Reed’s 1949 film The Third Man offers a richly metaphorical expression of the view that pragmatism, love, and morality are incommensurable perspectives from which to interpret the world. Harry Lime is a black market trader whose actions are constrained only by practical considerations. Anna Schmidt, Lime's former lover, understands what is morally wrong with what Lime does, but refuses to assist the police. In contrast, Holly Martins, an old friend from childhood, ultimately agrees to help trap Lime. These three protagonists occupy distinct conceptual worlds that color their interpretation of the others with whom they interact. In addition to illustrating the paradoxes of love and morality, The Third Man self-referentially expresses the idea that reality is far more complex than language could ever convey.


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How to Cite

Calhoun, L. (2014). Pragmatism, Love, and Morality: Triangular Reflections in Carol Reed’s The Third Man. Labyrinth, 16(2), 117–128.