Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory
In Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, setting is essential in understanding the spiritual conquest of the main character. The story takes place in post-revolution Mexico of the nineteen-thirties, where Catholicism has been banned. The government has shut down all of the churches and established anti-Catholic laws, jealous of the rising power of the church, and nervous of the corrupt ways in which the church has been dealing with sin. The main character, a nameless "whiskey priest," hopelessly roams the desolate plains of southern Mexico, on the run from the law, as the only priest left who has not denounced his fatherhood. The ...view middle of the document...
However, this "whiskey priest" "felt bound to his sin by love? And when we love our sin then we are damned indeed." (pp. 172-3) The priest claims he is too proud to denounce his fatherhood, and roams southern Mexico as a fugitive from the law. "He was a bad priest, he knew it." (p. 60)
The priest encounters nothing but the desolate plains of southern Mexico and the cultural depression of its poverty-stricken lands.
Half a dozen huts of mud and wattle stood ina clearing;
two were in ruins. A few pigs routed round, and an old
woman carried a burning ember from hut to hut, lighting
a little fire on the centre of each floor to fill the hut with
smoke and keep mosquitos away.
Everybody the priest encounters will not harbour him because of fear of the law. These barren lands symbolize the priest's feeling of worthlesness and rejection from God, and the feeling of inevitable sin and the impossibility of martyrdom. "'I don't know how to repent.' That was true: he had lost the faculty. He couldn't say to himself that he wished his sin had never existed, because the sin seemed to him now so unimportant and he loved the fruit of it... our sins have so much beauty." (p. 128,130) The priest continues to create damage as several innocent members of passing communities are executed by the police for not being able to provide adequate information on the priest's course of action. The priest's developing knowledge of the damage he is creating adds guilt to his anxiety, and he continues to question God about the meaning behind his situation.
It infuriated him to think that there were still people in the state
who believed in a loving and merciful God. There are mystics
who are said to have experienced God directly. He was a mystic,
too, and what he had experienced was vacancy- a complete
certainty in the existence of a dying, cooling world, of human
beings who had evolved from animals for no pupose at all.
As the priest becomes more humble from self-awareness, he becomes less self-centered and begins to regret his careless sins in the past and develops a more compassionate mindframe. "'Oh God, forgive me - I am proud, lustful, greedy man? They deserve a martyr to care for them- not a man like me, who loves all the wrong things.'" (p.95) In a dangerous effort, he visits his bastard child from his old town. The priest begins to understand that, "?one must love every soul as if it were one's own child. The passion to protect must extend itself over a world." (p.82) When he finally sees his daughter, he has a revelation about the interconnected essence of God in its connection with love and human nature.
'Oh God, help her. Damn me, I deserve it, but let her live for ever.'
This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world:
all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on the...