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The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene Essay

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2019

Graham Greene’s novel “The Power and the Glory” written in the 1940’s is a significance reference to the Lords Prayer which stipulates that Gods kingdom, His power and the glory shall rule now and forever. This indicates that religion will withstand any force against it since God wants people to inherit His Kingdom.

The state’s persecution of the church is seen through the suffering of the priest who has to overcome great challenges posed by the socialist State and the fascist Red Shirts, who violates the church through such acts as forcing the priest to marry. Regardless of the government power and attempts to eliminate the church, the peasants still cling to their faith in God as they seek a higher authority for spiritual nourishment. Therefore religion will survive the State’s persecution and the people will still have faith in God.

Throughout the novel, Greene uses images to depict the brutal rejection and opposition to the church and anything that is associated with it. The priest spends a night of moral, emotional and physical torment in jail. The Mexican government puts the priest in jail for his unwavering faith and belief in God.

While the jail is just a simple structure where the powerful earthy authorities use to incarcerate the righteous, it also symbolizes the entire world. In the eyes of the priest, the world is like a jail, where the righteous are surrounded by sinfulness and hopelessness. In jail, the sinfulness of the world is replica of the copulating couple (Greene 115).

This is a mockery not only to the priest but also to religion at large. It shows the extent to which the righteous suffer through many trials and temptations and the extent to which the State will go to pour scorn on the church as well as those who believe in God.

Suffice to say that the copulating couple was put there bearing in mind the fact that Catholicism frowns upon such pleasures. As the priest puts it, the jail was like “the world elsewhere, where people snatched at causes of pleasure and pride in cramped and disagreeable surroundings, a world where there was no time to do anything worth doing, and always one dreamed of escape” (Green 124).

The priest recognizes the kind of government’s opposition that he and other believers have to go through because of their faith. Regardless of the powerful opposition forces, the priest does not yield and continues, amidst great suffering, in doing graceful acts of faith.

Greene has written many novels, all of which dwell succinctly on the tumultuous relationship between politics and religion. “The Power and the Glory” is no exception. In this novel, Greene shows how hostile politics is to religion.

Like the jail which is a representation of the harshness that the authorities have towards religion, the lieutenant is in every way symbolic of the harshness of political rulers over religious rulers. The lieutenant is bent on spreading government-backed socialist ideals. This is attained by ensuring that all that stands in the way of the government is not only crushed, but crushed mercilessly.

This is evident through the lieutenant tireless efforts to track down the priest, leaving behind a trail of violent tortures to those who are sympathetic of the priest and the church. Suffice to say that, the government socialism is not entirely bad. Some of the socialist ideals are intended to bring economic and social salvation to the poor and include development of social conditions and providing education and other social services to the poor.

Similarly, religion as seen through the eyes of the priest is the only way towards the spiritual salvation of mankind (Greene 141). While socialism and religion have similar goals, they greatly oppose each other. Political leaders, through the lieutenant want eliminate catholism. They fail to understand that socialism will result to much harm to the society.

In his never ending desire to erase catholism from the face of the earth, the lieutenant forgets that the people have an innate longing for a transcendental reality. The people have a strong desire to connect to a higher power for spiritual nourishment, a desire that cannot be satisfied through his socialistic ideals. As such the people are ready to suffer the government brutal force gladly in anticipation of spiritual nourishment.

Within the novel there are a number of small, but crucial events that reveal how much the church is being persecuted by the state. Mr. Tench finds a small book with a colorful covering, left behind by the stranger. The book, which is written in Latin, looks insignificant but has devotional passages. The essence of the colorful cover is to mask its contents.

In this way it might survive for a period before it is destroyed by the State. The small devotional book significantly symbolizes people religious zeal and firmness, regardless of the ongoing state persecution to all those who profess their belief in God. It is an indication that faith in God runs deep within the society and the individuals, and cannot simply be wished away by the government.

Similarly, events in chapter three indicate how the people are dependent on the church and not the government, its persecution notwithstanding. This is clearly evident evidenced during the burial ceremony of the small girl. The deceased have a strong belief that their pain and sense of loss can only be wiped away through prayer. Thus, they rely on the priest’s prayer to overcome the sense of loss (Greene 217).

All this happens despite the State’s attempts to eliminate the church. Furthermore, the priest actions portray him as always defending his faith as he always had a strong belief that there was a lot of friction between church and the state similar to a foot and an ill-fitting shoe (Greene 198).

It is out of this belief that leads the priest to go back and help the dying American say his last penance, despite suspecting that the lieutenant might kill him in the process (Greene 64). These events prove that religion, despite its persecution, is a key inspiration to the living as well as the dying.

The Power and the Glory” proves that the church will survive any oppressive forces. The state targets the church by targeting individuals such as the priest and the peasants. In doing so, the church fails to understand that religion is founded on strong faith in a powerful supreme authority and that the individuals such as the priest are just like a drop in the ocean.

They are part of bigger organization, bigger and powerful than any earthly authority. The State also fails to understand that the church is built on faith and the belief in eternal salvation and that this cannot be fought through physical battle.

Regardless of the government’s violence and intolerance towards the church, the people still harbor a strong belief and faith in God. That is why towards the end of the story, after the persecution of the priest by the State another priest appears. This portrays the futility of the government’s persecution on the church, and that the church is power institution that cannot merely be destroyed.

Works Cited

Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. Indiana: Penguin Books. 1971. Print

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