Dave Russell's Reviews > The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
26185
's review
Jul 27, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: novels
Read in July, 2009

That was another mystery: it sometimes seemed to him that venial sins—impatience, an unimportant lie, pride, a neglected opportunity—cut off from grace more completely than the worst sins of all. Then, in his innocence, he had felt no love for anyone: now in his corruption he had learnt...

There is a key scene which takes place in a prison after The Priest is arrested for the less serious crime of possessing brandy and not the more serious crime of treason, for which he is also deemed guilty by the authorities. There he meets a woman whom he describes as "complacent" in her piety. His own struggle with complacency forms the core thrust of this story.

Before religion was outlawed The Priest led a rather comfortable, albeit bland existence. Reading his description of his old life I was reminded of Dante's Inferno specifically the Uncommitted, the lukewarm who chose neither good nor evil. They are condemned to a sort of eternal twilight existence outside of Hell. An eternity of waiting outside the velvet rope.

It's only after he is on the run does his life take on any dimension--he is unrecognizable from his photograph from those earlier days. It's while on the run that he encounters true sin, the kind that gets you past the velvet rope and into the second or third circle of Club Inferno: He fathers a child out of wedlock, an unpardonable sin because he is not truly sorry for it. He loves his daughter.

Here's the paradox: it's through a sin which will condemn him to Hell according to the Church rules that he comes to understand true love and humility:

This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world: all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on the one child.

But in the end he is incapable of it:

He prayed, "God help them," but in the moment of prayer he switched back to his child beside the rubbish-dump, and he knew it was for her only that he prayed. Another failure.

This is what makes the ending so fascinating for me. Throughout the novel the struggle of The Priest is contrasted with the struggle of The Lieutenant, a misguided and often brutal reformer who is capable of small acts of kindness nonetheless. The Lieutenant is not one of the complacent ones. In his own way he is saint, one of "Hell's Saints" to use a phrase from The End of the Affair.

Even though The Priest cannot achieve saintliness, there's reason to believe that he may win a victory over The Lieutenant after all. In a world where suffering and sin is almost unavoidable, "Saintliness" (by the Church's definition) may not be necessary after all. Such a wonderful ending and such a humane vision.
15 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Power and the Glory.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

07/13/2009 page 19
8.56%
07/23/2009 page 155
69.82% "Dang, now I'm going to think about the dog for the rest of the book"
show 3 hidden updates…

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C. His own struggle with complacency forms the core thrust of this story.

Nicely put. This was exactly what I was trying and failing to say in my review.


message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world: all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on the one child.

But in the end he is incapable of it:

He prayed, "God help them," but in the moment of prayer he switched back to his child beside the rubbish-dump, and he knew it was for her only that he prayed. Another failure.


Spot on review- hitting the nail right on the head and no sore thumbs!

And knowing every child really was his child, then, in the end, when he prayed for his daughter, he was praying for them all- himself included, maybe? I tend to take the more merciful outlook, I guess. Incurably hopeful. I see Greene's personal life here too- thanks to the wiki link!


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Boy, Dave, you and Jen mined the gold out of this Greene novel. Well done, both of you!

Yes D., you felt that comfortable complacency was a mother of a conflict for him.


message 4: by Gary (new) - added it

Gary hey dave,

have you read THE QUIET AMERICAN?? i've read quite a bit of greene,and i have to say it's my favorite novel of his. an old movie was made based on it, but i saw a new movie version with brandon fraser,and michael caine, that is a great movie. read the book, then do the movie. you won't regret it, buddy!
gary


Kate Those two quotes were the ones that really resonated with me too.


back to top