“The Power and the Glory” is one of the influential novels of British author ‘Graham Greene’. It was published in 1940. It is set in the Mexican state of Tobasco in the 1930s, during the Cristero War, a period of religious persecution by the Mexican government. It was also published in the United States under the title “The Labyrinthine Ways”. It tells the story of a Catholic “Whisky Priest” living in the Mexican state of Tabasco the Mexican government was attempting to suppress the Catholic Church.
In 1941, the novel received the Hawthorden Prize British literary award. The book also received great criticism. ‘Pope Paul VI’ a head of the Catholic Church said,
“Some aspects of your books are certain to offer some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to him.”
About Graham Greene
“Graham Greene” was an English writer and one of the leading novelists of the 20th century. Through the 67 years of writing, included 25 novels. He explored the conflicting moral and political issues of the modern world. He was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. He was awarded the 1968 Shakespeare Prize and the 1981 ‘Jerusalem Prize.’ Among his notable works included – ‘The End Of The Affair’, ‘The Heart of the Matter’, ‘The Quiet American’, ‘Stamboul Train’ and ‘Our Man in Havana’. On the publication of “The Power and the Glory”, ‘William Golding claimed Greene had.
“Captured the conscience of the twentieth-century man like no other.”
Theme Of The Power and The Glory
The main theme of Graham Greene’s novel ‘The Power and the Glory’ is ‘Faith and Redemption’. The Novel follows the story of an unnamed whiskey priest, a Catholic priest who is haunted by the Government of Mexico during the Cristero War, a period of religious persecution in the early 1900s. The priest is a flawed and human character, but he remains steadfast in his faith, even in the face of death.
Another theme of the novel is despair, neglect, and frustration. The story revolves, around two main characters. The Priest and the Lieutenant. In the novel, we are presented with a world of utter darkness, a world where men destroy themselves through hatred and self-egoism just as the Lieutenant destroyed the Priest. In a vivid description of the Priest, the author wrote:
“He felt like a man without a passport who is turned away from every harbor.”
A situation such as that presented above depicts a society full of despair. The political and economic situation in such a society is most unhealthy. When the inalienable rights of the individual are violated, life becomes short and brutal. The individual is thus faced with fear and with a heavy sense of despair.
Theme of Sin and Salvation
Greene’s novel, ‘The Power and the Glory’, “A Pre-Eminently Religious Novel’, exposes the condition in Tabasco, a small state in Mexico, where priests were persecuted with pitiless cruelty by the totalitarian, anti-religious regime which took over the province in 1917. The central opposing characters are the unnamed Whisky Priest, who sometimes assumes the name Montez, and a similarly unnamed Lieutenant of the police. ‘The Power and the Glory’ is divided into four parts –
The first part introduces the Whisky Priest, who has been a fugitive for eight years, while the country where he has remained as the last priest, following the execution or defection of the others.
The second part shows the Priest’s return to his native village, where he meets his illegitimate daughter, Brigitta, and narrowly escapes arrest by the Lieutenant. The Priest is later arrested for breaking the anti-liquor laws and spends a night in prison.
The third part chronicles the Priest’s betrayal by the mestizo who wants to get a reward promised by the Lieutenant.
The fourth part of the novel reports the last conversation between the priest and the Lieutenant before the Priest is executed.
Greene believes in the original sin of Man. As a Catholic, he thinks that man has a natural tendency to fall into the path of evil. Therefore he makes a clear distinction between virtue and vice. These are the motions of right and wrong on the human level and sin and virtue on the spiritual level. It is rightly said that Greene’s novels deal not only concerning society and himself but fundamentally concerning God. Therefore, Greene preoccupies himself with man’s innate sinfulness his awareness of his sinfulness, and his consequent search for God’s mercy and salvation.
Character Sketch Of Whiskey Priest
The “Whisky Priest” is the protagonist of Graham Greene’s novel ‘The Power and the Glory’. He is a Catholic priest who is on the run from the government of a Mexican state where the church has been outlawed. He is given no name in the novel, and is referred to only as “The Priest” or “The Whiskey Priest”. In the story, he avoids alcohol, mostly because it is unavailable. When he has a little money and finds someone who sells alcohol illegally, he tries to buy grape wine. However, he is also a man of great courage and strength. He risks his life to provide religious services to his flock, and he ultimately gives his life for his fourth.
This Whisky Priest is a Short, Scruffy man with a pale complexion and a haunted look in his eyes. He is often unshaven and dressed in dirty clothes.
He is a complex and contradictory character. He is cowardly at times, but he is also brave and resourceful. He is also deeply compassionate and committed to his faith. However, he is also flawed and human. He struggles with his doubts and failings, and he is not immune to temptation.
The “Whisky Priest” has a close relationship with his daughter, Brigitta. He also has a deep bond with the people of his parish, even though he is constantly on the run from authorities.
The “Whisky Priest” is the last priest surviving in a southern Mexican state where religious practice has been outlawed. The authorities are haunting him with the same techniques they are using to hunt down a legendary thief and bandit who has come to their state to hide. His flight to the border, to another state where he might be able to live freely.
His flight through the jungle takes the priest to the small village where he once had a church. It is there that he meets Brigida, his illegitimate child. Although he abandoned her long ago. The night before his death, when he finds himself locked in a cell and unable to clear his sins through confession he thinks of her as a true reason for his life.
Comment On the title
The title of Greene’s novel ‘The Power and the Glory’ is taken from the Lord’s Prayer. “Thine is the Kingdom the Power and the Glory.” Both power and Glory belong to God. The title may, however, be interpreted in two ways: –
True Power and true glory and divine in Origin and are attributes of God’s head. But the priest manages to achieve both these to a certain extent in his perfect way and without knowing it.
Power may be yielded by a government through its lieutenants of police, but the glory belongs to priests who, even when sinning, are capable of rising to supreme heights of self-sacrifice.
The theme and title are inter-related in every work of art and Greene’s ‘The Power and the Glory’ is no exception. The theme and the title have a reciprocal relation in Greene’s ‘The Power and The Glory’. The theme of Greene’s ‘The Power and the Glory’ is his constant query – damnation or Salvation? Outwardly, the novel is about the conflict between the church and the state. But inwardly evil which is worked out largely through the portrayal of the whisky priest is interwoven with this conflict.
Thus the novel also shows Greene’s preoccupation with the theme of evil in this world. There is a certain element of evil or sinfulness in the composition or nature of this whisky priest. As the priest dies in a state of sin, the question arises whether he will be ultimately damned or forgiven by God. However, Greene glorifies him at last and denies him to be a martyr and even a possible saint.
Through the Character Sketch of the Whisky Priest in ‘The Power and the Glory’, Greence has perhaps given a new turn to the Christian novel in England. Instead of depicting his protagonist as a good man who is in quest of virtue or the heavenly city of God, he depicts his protagonist as a sinner who stumbles along the way to the heavenly city, almost forsaking God and embarrassing the evil.
In ‘The Power and the Glory’ Greene shows a situation where the church has been banished from the country. The Protagonist is a priest gone band but who is aware of his corruption. The novel depicts the conflict between good and evil in the outer physical world, as well as the inner world of the human mind. When he dies, the evil is defeated, and good triumphs.