The author creates characters that are both good and bad and therefore human. The very flawed Priest is redeemed by going to the Gringo to comfort him in death and by helping the woman who lost her child find a burial place. However, the Priest finds no comfort at the time of his own execution and states " I might just as well have never lived." He feels he is going to God "empty- handed and with nothing done at all." He drinks and has an illigetimate daughter of whom he says,"What is the good of confession when you love the result of your crime?" He tells the Lieutenant that he didn't run initially because he thought the situation would change, and when it didn't, it was pride that ruined him. He couldn't live up to the expectations of the Church and was very conflicted in his faith. I thought it interesting that at the end, when Padre Jose refuses to come to him so he could confess, he is unable to speak to God directly. The Lieutenant asks him what difference it makes without Padre Jose and he says "Another man-it makes it easier." He spends more time talking about God than to God. He is a cowardly man who allows someone else to be taken hostage and killed to save himself. Ironically, the boy at the end calls him a martyr. I view him as tired and disappointed and giving up of any hope for himself. The rituals that at one time had meaning for him are devoid of any spirit and he is lost and overcome with guilt.
The Lieutenant reminds me of the extremists of our own time. He is a man that has compassion for the poor and he sees religion as the evil that has created this social ill. He wants to see the money that goes to the Chuch be given to the people for food. In his mind, murder is justified for a greater good. Of course this is a perverted sense of justice, and after killing the Priest he has doubts.The author says, "the dynamic love which used to move his trigger finger felt flat and dead" but the Lieutenant thinks it will come back. The discussion between the Lieutenant and the Priest before he kills him, makes him less of a political object and more of a human being. I thought he wouldn't do it.
The author grapples with the meaning of our existence and his message seems to be that our flaws make us tragic. At one point, the Priest says, "When you visualized a man or woman carefully,you could always begin to feel pity-that was a quality God's image carried with it." It seems we are doomed to unhappiness in this life and that hope only exists with God. I think he is also saying that God has the capacity to forgive us even if we don't have the ability to ask. In addition, the author gives the impression that we need to forgive ourselves for being human and imperfect but I don't feel there is enough consideration given to free will in the story. These people do really terrible things. Mr. Greene's image is that of people who are driven to their actions without any consideration of consequencs. They are mostly a very selfish group of individuals. Knowing that the author converted to Catholicism makes it more difficult to understand his view of the Church. The Priest has no faith in the institutions of the Catholic Church and I am not sure if the author is writing about one Priest falling from grace or if this character is a reflection of his own opinions.