The Power and the Glory by Graham GreeneIn a poor, remote section of Southern Mexico, the paramilitary group, the Red Shirts have taken control. God has been outlawed, and the priests have been systematically hunted down and killed. Now, the last priest is on the run. Too human for heroism, too humble for martyrdom, the nameless little worldly “whiskey priest” is nevertheless impelled toward his squalid Calvary as much by his own compassion for humanity as by the efforts of his pursuers.
In his introduction, John Updike calls The Power and the Glory, “Graham Greene’s masterpiece…. The energy and grandeur of his finest novel derive from the will toward compassion, an ideal communism even more Christian than Communist.”
How Graham Greene’s “The Power and the Glory” changed my life
At the beginning of the novel, the priest is waiting for a boat that will take him out of the capital city. He is on the run from the police because religion has been outlawed in his state and he is the last remaining clergyman. While talking to a man named Mr. Tench, he is summoned to a dying woman's house and misses his boat. He hides out in a barn on the estate of a plantation owner, befriending the owner's daughter. Forced to move on, he heads to a village in which he used to live and work as pastor.
He is a priest who has been on the run for eight years in a state in Mexico where authorities have leveled all churches in an effort to root out Catholicism. It is the middle of the 20 th century, and the new Socialist government wants to stamp out superstition. Some priests have fled. Some have stayed and, under duress, have gotten married. Others, like this one, have gone into hiding.
The title is an allusion to the doxology often recited at the end of the Lord's Prayer : "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen. Greene's novel tells the story of a renegade Roman Catholic ' whisky priest ' a term coined by Greene living in the Mexican state of Tabasco in the s, a time when the Mexican government was attempting to suppress the Catholic Church. In , the novel received the Hawthornden Prize British literary award. In , it was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the hundred best English-language novels since The main character is an unnamed 'whisky priest', who combines a great power for self-destruction with pitiful cravenness, an almost painful penitence, and a desperate quest for dignity.
Churches are burned. Relics, medals, and crosses are banned. The price for disobedience is death.
you re your own worst critic
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In The Power and the Glory, Greene examines the bases of sin and salvation by focusing on the final months in the life of a man who is the last priest still practicing his calling in Mexico. In his treatment of the fugitive, Greene offers two possible views of the protagonist's plight, and he allows his readers to form their own conclusions concerning the priest's fate in eternity. The first view sees the priest's holiness as almost a truism. The clergyman has lived in the most dire conditions for years in Mexico — half-starved, assaulted by fever and the police — simply to carry out God's will. Even his death is caused by his sense of duty: he could have stayed across the mountains in safety, but he chose instead to administer Last Rites to the dying outlaw, Calver, although he sensed that he would be wasting his time and that the message summoning him was almost assuredly a police trick. We discover, however, that Calver did write the note.