The Power and the Glory
|The Power and the Glory|
1st edition cover
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||The Confidential Agent|
|Followed by||The Ministry of Fear|
The Power and the Glory (1940) is a novel by British author Graham Greene. The title is an allusion to the doxology often added to the end of the Lord's Prayer: "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen." This novel has also been published in the US under the name The Labyrinthine Ways. In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels since 1923.
The novel tells the story of a Roman Catholic priest in the state of Tabasco in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government, still effectively controlled by Plutarco Elías Calles, strove to suppress the Catholic Church.
In Catholic eyes, Mexico formed part of what Pope Pius XI called the Terrible Triangle, along with the other socialist and Communist states of the Soviet Union and Spain. The persecution was especially severe in the province of Tabasco, where the anti-clerical governor Tomás Garrido Canabal had founded and actively encouraged paramilitary groups (called the “Red-Shirts”), often called "fascist" but who considered themselves to be Marxist, and succeeded in closing all the churches in the state; forcing the priests to marry and give up their soutanes.
The main character in the story is a nameless 'whisky priest', who combines a great power for self-destruction with pitiful cravenness, an almost painful penitence and a desperate quest for dignity. By the end, though, the priest "acquires a real holiness." The other main character is a lieutenant of the police who is given the task of hunting down this priest. This Lieutenant—also nameless but thought to be based upon Tomás Garrido Canabal— is a committed socialist who despises everything that the church stands for.
The story starts with the arrival of the priest in a country town in an area where Catholicism is outlawed, and then follows him on his trip through Mexico, where he is trying to minister to the people as best as he can. He is also haunted by his personal demons, especially by the fact that he had fathered a child in his parish some years before. He meets the child, but is unable to feel repentant about what happened. Rather, he feels a deep love for the evil-looking and awkward little girl and decides to do everything in his power to save her from damnation. The priest's opposite player among the clericals is Padre José, a priest who has been forced to renounce his faith and marry a woman (by order of the government) and lives as a state pensioner.
During his journey the priest also encounters a mestizo who later reveals himself to be a Judas figure. The lieutenant, on the other hand, is morally irreproachable, yet he is cold and inhumane. While he is supposedly "living for the people", he puts into practice a diabolic plan of taking hostages from villages and shooting them, if it proves that the priest has sojourned in a village but is not denounced. The lieutenant has also had bad experiences with the church in his youth, and as a result there is a personal element in his search for the whisky priest. The lieutenant thinks that all members of the clergy are fundamentally evil, and believes that the church is corrupt, and does nothing but provide delusion to the people.
In his flight from the lieutenant and his posse, the priest escapes into a neighbouring province, only to re-connect with the mestizo, who persuades the priest to return to hear the confession of a dying man. Though the priest suspects that it is a trap, he feels compelled to fulfil his priestly duty. Although he finds the dying man, it is a trap and the lieutenant captures the priest. The lieutenant admits he has nothing against the priest as a man, but he must be shot "as a danger". On the eve of the execution, the lieutenant shows mercy and attempts to enlist Padre José to hear the condemned man's confession. The lieutenant is convinced that he has "cleared the province of priests". In the final scene, however, another priest arrives in the town – which, among other possible readings, suggests that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed.
Throughout the book, Greene refers to the border as being to the north, and the sea as being to the south, when in fact the Bay of Campeche is situated north of Tabasco and its border with Chiapas to the south. However, most of the descriptions of travel (usually arduous) and places (usually desolate) are accurate and based on Greene's 1938 journey to Tabasco, which he chronicled in The Lawless Roads. Many years later, Greene said that it was in Tabasco that he first started to become a Christian, where the fidelity of the peasants "assumed such proportions that I couldn't help being profoundly moved."
In 1938, Greene was forced to flee his native England in advance of a lawsuit that 20th Century Fox brought against him for a review he wrote of the Shirley Temple movie Wee Willie Winkie in Night and Day magazine. Wrote Greene, "...watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood that is only skin-deep. It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."
Greene's friend, the Brazilian-born film director Alberto Cavalcanti, wrote:
Graham was warned that the Americans producing the film had introduced a writ of libel against him, meaning that not only would the backers of Night and Day pay a large fine, but he, Graham himself, faced a prison sentence. The only solution was to find a country without extradition. They chose Mexico and our poor Graham went away very quickly indeed. Very likely Shirley Temple never learned that it was partly thanks to her that, during his exile, Graham Greene wrote one of his best books.
This is a myth, however. Night and Day ceased publication because of the lawsuit, and Greene was never threatened with imprisonment. He did not go to Mexico as an exile. He went to Mexico from January to May 1938 to research and write The Lawless Roads, a nonfiction account of the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico, from which his novel, The Power and the Glory, would develop. He had been planning this Mexican trip since 1936, and the lawsuit, which cost him UK£600, did make him happy to be out of Britain for a while. However, there was never a threat of imprisonment, and in any case he was back in England in five months.
The Priest: The unnamed main character in the novel, the priest is on the run from the authorities, who will kill him if they catch him. A "whisky priest," and not the finest example of his profession, he is an alcoholic who has also fathered a child. In his younger days he was smug and self-satisfied. Now as a fugitive, he feels guilt for his mistakes and sins. Nevertheless, he continues to perform his priestly functions (often in great difficulty and sometimes reluctance) and it is his determination to attend to the spiritual needs of a dying man that leads to his eventual capture and death.
The Lieutenant: The lieutenant is the chief adversary of the priest. He hates the church because he thinks it is corrupt, and he pursues the priest ruthlessly. He takes hostages from the villages and kills them when he feels it is necessary. However, the lieutenant is also idealistic, and believes in radical social reform that would end poverty and provide education for everyone. He is capable of acts of personal kindness, as when he gives the priest (whom he believes to be a destitute drunkard) money on leaving the jail.
The Mestizo: The mestizo is the half-Indian peasant who insists on guiding the priest to Carmen. The priest knows that the mestizo will at some point hand him over to the authorities. The mestizo encounters the priest again in the prison, but prefers to wait for the right moment to betray him, which he does when leading him to the dying American.
Maria: Maria is the mother of Brigitta, the priest’s daughter. She keeps brandy for the priest and helps him evade the police when they come to her village looking for him. Although she shows support when the "whisky priest" reappears, the narrative leaves the character of Maria incomplete... with implications of resentment.
Brigitta: The young daughter of Maria and the priest.
Padre José: A priest who obeyed the government’s instructions and took a wife. He is dominated by her and has lost both the respect of the town and his self-respect. He refuses to do any priestly duties, even when people beg him to, because he fears the authorities.
Mr. Tench: Mr. Tench is a dissatisfied English dentist who longs to return from Mexico to England. He befriends the priest, whom he meets at the quayside, and later witnesses his death.
Coral Fellows: The thirteen-year-old daughter of Captain and Mrs. Fellows. She befriends the priest and offers refuge to him for the future. Her fate at the end of the novel is not revealed. Her parents have promised each other not to talk about her again.
Captain Fellows: A happy Englishman who works on a banana plantation who is displeased to find that the priest has taken refuge in his barn.
Mrs. Fellows: The wife of Captain Fellows. She is neurotic and fearful and hates life in Mexico.
The Woman: The unnamed woman reads to her children the story of Juan and his martyrdom. The Catholic faith is important to her and she wants her children to take an interest in it.
Luis: This young boy shows little interest in the story his mother reads to him, but his interest is awakened by the news of the priest's death.
The Gringo: An American fugitive called James Calver, he is wanted for murder and bank robbery.
The Chief of Police: Mostly concerned with playing billiards and assuaging his own toothache, he doesn't share the Lieutenant's idealism and wilfully breaks the law.
The Lehrs: Mr. Lehr, a widower, and his sister, Miss Lehr, are an elderly couple who allow the priest to stay with them after he crosses the state border. They are Lutherans, and have little sympathy for Catholicism, although they treat the priest with kindness.
Juan: Juan is a character in the "story within a story" that the Mother reads to her family. Juan is a young Mexican man who enters the priesthood, lives a pious life and faces with great courage his death by firing squad.
In 1947, the novel was freely adapted into a film, The Fugitive, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda as the priest. It was adapted into a play by Denis Cannan in 1956 and performed in the Phoenix Theatre in London. In 1958, the play was performed in the Phoenix Theatre in America and 1959 it was adapted for television by the anthology series Play of the Week, with James Donald as the priest. A highly acclaimed 1961 US television version, released theatrically overseas, featured Laurence Olivier in the role.
The Power and the Glory was somewhat controversial and, in 1953, Cardinal Bernard Griffin of Westminster summoned Greene and read him a pastoral letter condemning the novel. According to Greene:
The Archbishop of Westminster read me a letter from the Holy Office condemning my novel because it was "paradoxical" and "dealt with extraordinary circumstances." The price of liberty, even within a Church, is eternal vigilance, but I wonder whether any of the totalitarian states ... would have treated me as gently when I refused to revise the book on the casuistical ground that the copyright was in the hands of my publishers. There was no public condemnation, and the affair was allowed to drop into that peaceful oblivion which the Church wisely reserves for unimportant issues.
Evelyn Waugh in Greene's defence wrote, "It was as fatuous as unjust – a vile misreading of a noble book." In 1965, Greene met Pope Paul VI, who assured him, "Mr. Greene, some aspects of your books are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that." In 1953, ten years before he became Paul VI, Mgr. Giovanni Battista Montini had defended The Power and the Glory against other churchmen who wanted to censor it. Many novelists consider the novel to be Greene's masterpiece, as John Updike claimed in his introduction to the 1990 reprint of the novel. On its publication, William Golding claimed Greene had "captured the conscience of the twentieth century man like no other."
- All Time 100 Novels
- History Of Mexico – Plutarco Elias Calles: Crusader In Reverse – By Jim Tuck In Mexico Connect
- Needler, Martin C. Mexican politics: the containment of conflict. Politics in Latin America. New York, N.Y.: Praeger, 1982. On page 15 he is called a "crusading atheist".
- Articles: Garrido Canabal, Tomás – Historical Text Archive
- "MEXICO: Palm Down". Time. 10 December 1934. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- RMOA – Document
- "Garrido Canabal, Tomás". The Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition (2005).
- Donald J. Mabry, "Garrido Canabal, Tomás", at the Historical Text Archive.
- Ard, Michael J. "An eternal struggle: how the National Action Party transformed Mexican politics". Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. ISBN 0-275-97831-1, ISBN 978-0-275-97831-0. Length 228 pages. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9GhTZd-EnoEC&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=Garrido+Canabal+left-wing&source=bl&ots=rdYFyhlf72&sig=tdABRlzFgd2JcqRmLBAscItyRhg&hl=en&ei=pbfLTrOtBMWX8QP4t6XCDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Garrido%20Canabal%20left-wing&f=false
- Austin, Ron. "Peregrino: A Pilgrim Journey Into Catholic Mexico". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010. ISBN 0-8028-6584-4, ISBN 978-0-8028-6584-7. Length 219 pages. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=xajAjbJNDu4C&pg=PA129&lpg=PA129&dq=Garrido+Canabal+left-wing&source=bl&ots=FCKeZNWTe1&sig=uUxBRKVAT8gwBHl4P9j56ELAGKk&hl=en&ei=pbfLTrOtBMWX8QP4t6XCDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Garrido%20Canabal%20left-wing&f=false
- H.J.Donaghy, Graham Greene, p.40
- The Power and the Glory New York: Viking, 1990. Introduction by John Updike.
- Rodman, Selden. Mexican journal: the conquerors conquered; a journal of six months in Mexico including travels to the principal parts of that country; conversations with distinguished personalities in the arts and public life; adventures, mishaps, reflections and photographs. New York: Devin-Adair Co., 1958. Page 121. "[T]he fanatical Garrido Canabal ... who has been immortalized as the villain of Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory".
- The Lawless Roads
- New York Times article on Greene interview
- Editors (18 November 2007) "Shirley Temple scandal was real reason Graham Greene fled to Mexico." The Independent.
- Atkinson, Michael (21 August 2009 ) "Our Man in London." Moving Image Source.
- Brennan, Michael. Graham Greene: Fictions, Faith and Authorship (London: Continuum, 2010), pp. 47, 56–59.
- Details given in the Who's Who 2007 article about Denis Cannan
- IMDB entry for Play of the Week episode "The Power and the Glory"
- Sochurek, Howard (Sept 1961), "Power and Glory of Sir Laurence", Life, issue 29
- The Power and the Glory 1961 television movie at IMDB
- Graham Greene
- Peter Godman. "Graham Greene's Vatican Dossier", The Atlantic, July/August 2001.