Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Power and the Glory

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.

12 comments:

EE said...

I like your reflection of the Lieutenant. He was interesting and I agree he had some good aspects about himself but the fact that he was so willing to kill innocent people made it hard to like him. Or forgive him for that matter. Good post!

NurseKim said...

Great point...he does spend most of his time talking of God and not to God. I was raised Catholic and was taught that you don't have to be in a church for God to hear you. I also found it interesting regarding the way the author portrayed the priest and the Catholic faith, especially since he made the choice to convert to Catholicism. Iwould have thought he would have put the church and priest in a more appealling light.

Carolyn said...

I have to say that I was surprised the Priest went to the Gringo, especially knowing it was likely a set-up. He had not so long before admitted to "his new-old manner of authority and impatience" creeping back. When that was written, I was sure there was no chance he would do anything further of merit.

And spending more time talking about God than to God. Wouldn't the world be different if people got ahold of that concept and reversed it. I also see it play out as people get so busy working FOR God that they don't end up spending anytime WITH God.

And, finally, "God has the capacity to fogive us, even if we don't have the ability to ask". That is a powerful statement. I have a wall in my house where people who visit can write a quote, draw a picture or write a message on, its fun. Well, now your quote is on it!

ANaturalBeauty said...

The Lieutenant was an interesting character indeed. He did have some good in him but his methods were all wrong. I believe had he not been so vigilant about killing all of the priest he may have let the Father go. I believe he saw something in this particular Father that he had never seen in any of the others he had encountered in the past. Something the Father didn't even see in himself.

Lisa Mac said...

You make some very strong points about the lieutenant. He is a rigid follower of laws who breaks some at the end for priest. Since the priest offers himself as the older, worthless hostage from his village, however, I thought he actually better than the lieutenant who was willing to kill one from each village to prove his own power.

mountaingirl said...

I think Greene was making a statement about the clergy of the church. Remember, Greene joined the Catholic Church in order to marry his wife.

Amy H. said...

I think you raise an interesting point in asserting that "our flaws make us tragic." I think that our flaws make us human, which is an important theme in the novel. Greene purposely shows "good" and "bad" characters; however, each one of us have flaws and those flaws help to elevate and destroy us. We have the ability to make our flaws less tragic, and that is why we are human.

workerbee said...

I thought the quotation about the daughter was very good. He wants to confess but he is not sorry because he loves the result of his sin. The idea of free will also bothers me. Although God made us in His image, he has no power over our free will. The Lieutenant is an extremist. He is also narrow minded and focused on his own agenda. He divides instead of unites. He thinks he can do away with religion by doing away with the priest. His efforts are in vain. Religion will always be a part of the human condition.

K.H. said...

I did not think of the lieutenant as an extremist in today's society. I totally agree with how you portrayed him. He was cruel and cold, going about his duties.
I like your point about the author thinking our flaws might be tragic. I personally don't believe this to be true. Life would be so depressing if it were so as we all have flaws.

Kelly Hall said...

I agree with your view that the priest gave up hope because he was tired and disappointed. He seems to do the right thing by risking his safety in order to go hear the confession, but his acceptance of his death felt more like resignation than an act of nobility.

Cari's Blog said...

It is interesting that you pointed out the time of the Priest's execution, and the statements he made about "just as well have never lived," and He feels he is going to God "empty-handed and with nothing done at all." He was never able to confess his sins to anyone, which seemed to be an important step for him in getting past his past so to speak, and to get over all of the bad things he had done and to begin a new life.

It makes one wonder if he had not been executed, and had been able to receive confession for his sins, if he really would have been a changed man and walked a different path?

AnneR said...

Your description of the priest at the beginning really brings home the misery represented in this book. Proper emphasis, if you ask me!