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Power and the Glory, The

Monsignor Quixote, The Lawless Roads, The Power and the Glory

a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1940, a time when conflicts between religious and secular or political imperatives frequently shape his writing. In this novel, these are played out between individual characters, named only as the Priest and the Lieutenant—Greene later used similar tactics, though much more lightly, in Monsignor Quixote (1982). As in the later novel, he tries to ensure that his protagonists are of equal appeal. The Lieutenant is a ‘figure of hate’—engaged in the kind of persecution of the clergy Greene witnessed on his visit to Mexico and describes in The Lawless Roads (1938)—but there is also a ‘secret of love’ in his political idealism and care for children and the poor. Though the Priest has an illegitimate child and also regularly gives way to the temptations of alcohol, he has the courage, or pride, to continue as the last servant of an outlawed religion in his province. His capture by the Lieutenant's forces and later death, arranged by a kind of Judas figure, have strong over-tones of Calvary. Greene admitted the novel was ‘written to a thesis’, and it has been criticized for allegorical qualities which can seem facile and schematic. The whisky priest, however, is of interest less as an allegoric figure than as a very ordinary one who, nevertheless, achieves an exalted status. As in several of Greene's novels, interest of this kind is emphasized by references to an analogous but more conventionally heroic story. The Priest is first contrasted but eventually amalgamated in a child's imagination with a more obviously heroic martyr described in a piece of Catholic propaganda. In this and other ways, The Power and the Glory suggests a kind of sanctity still accessible to fallible mortals; a heroism still achievable in a mundane world whose difficulties are much emphasized in this case by the novel's fetid, chaotic Mexican background.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy