Power and the Glory

Power and the Glory

by Graham Greene
Publisher: Penguin Classics
2nd Edition, ©2003, ISBN: 9780142437308
Trade Paperback, 240 pages
Current Retail Price: $15.00
Not in stock

How depraved must a man become before salvation is possible? Graham Greene explores the outer limits of redemption through the tortured eyes of a Mexican whisky priest, offering answers to this question that many readers will find uncomfortable, but few can dismiss or ignore.

In the Lord's Prayer, The Power and the Glory refer to God's sovereignty; in Greene's novel, we clearly see that no other explanation accounts for the unnamed priest's turn from coward and profligate to repentant sinner. Try as he might, the priest can't change himself—only God can do that, and he does.

During the 1930s, the government of Mexico actively persecuted the Catholic Church as socialism gained momentum. The primary target was the clergy, and those who would not deny their faith were killed or became fugitives. The protagonist of Greene's novel is a fugitive priest, a "whisky priest" as Greene calls him, due to his alcoholism and feeble convictions.

Yet, though he's fathered a child out of wedlock, though he's constantly afraid, though he drinks too much, this priest never gives up his faith, never denies the God he serves. He is weak and fragile, but aren't we all? Who among us can't think of weakness, sin, or betrayal for which we are guilty?

The priest can't stop thinking about any of these things. Throughout the novel, he runs from the lieutenant tasked with killing the priests in his area, a lieutenant who believes (largely due to unhappy personal experiences) that the Church is evil and that it blinds its followers to the true nature of reality.

In the end, the lieutenant catches up to the whisky priest and there is no happy ending, at least no happy temporal ending. Yet the priest remains a priest to the very end—not a very good one, perhaps, but a priest nonetheless. He's caught when a man convinces him to give last rites to a dying man and the whole thing proves to be a trap.

Greene's prose is nearly perfect, filled with humor and agonizingly accurate characterizations. This is one of his darker novels, but one of the most rewarding because of it. His narrative exploration of the nature of faith and repentance is undoubtedly a modern classic, and one we can heartily recommend to this and all future generations.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Violence, language, a weak-willed priest
Summary: A whiskey priest in old Mexico flees the corrupt regime while wrestling with his weak convictions that he nevertheless maintains till the end.

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