The Power and the Glory Discussion Group discussion

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Comments/Thoughts from "the middle"

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Here's where you can post your comments, thoughts, etc. when you get to the middle section of the book.


message 2: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments I was so glad when he started on the journey with the baby and the Indian woman. I really didn't like the book until then...it was like it opened up at that point on.


message 3: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) I felt terrible when the baby was found in the hay-stack, but the priest's decision to take up the journey with the Indian woman and the baby made me a feel a little better.


message 4: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments "... she unhooked the child and held the face against the wood...Did she expect a miracle? And if she did, why should it not be granted her?...The priest found himself watching the child for some movement. When none came, it was as if God had missed an opportunity. Why, after all, should we expect God to punish the innocent with more life?"

I loved that passage.


message 5: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Yes, that's a lovely passage, Jen.
I too have this one marked up in my book.


message 6: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell I just read and loved the scene where the priest buys wine. So much suspense in that brief passage. I took what happened so personally. Those assholes.


message 7: by C. (new)

C. (placematsgalore) | 18 comments Dave wrote: "I just read and loved the scene where the priest buys wine. So much suspense in that brief passage. I took what happened so personally. Those assholes. "

I loved the wine scene too - it was so simple, yet so moving.



message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I was upset that they kept promising wine when all they had was brandy and beer. Don't they know how much he needs wine?!


message 9: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments Exactly. And then having to sit there and watch it go down their throats.

And fangface! AHHH. The whiskey priest was so much nicer than me...


message 10: by Bram (new)

Bram Seriously, I think I might have strangled him and his grubby toe and let him float down the river. What's one more little pre-confessional sin? JK. Or maybe not.

I'm not sure if this is middle third, but I think the prison scene was my favorite in the book.


message 11: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) My favorite scene is either the wine scene or the prison scene. I can't quite decide between the two.


message 12: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments The prison scene or the captured scene for me.


message 13: by Ben (new)

Ben Dave, yes! The wine scene had me enthralled!

The priest has just been arrested. The writing continues to impress me; I find myself immersed in the setting. Unfortunately, although I appreciate the moral questions and ambiguities that Greene gives us through the priest, I simply don't like him.

Ben does not like the priest. It seems that you all like him -- is that correct?


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I like him, yes.

What is it that you don't like about him?


message 15: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 08:05AM) (new)

Ben He's weak and he lacks confidence but that isn't what bothers me about him. I can't get over him letting innocent villagers die when he could stop it by turning himself in. I realize the reason he lets it happen may not necessarily be out of fear and selfishness for his own life, but out of some kind of duty, but if that's the case, then why isn't Greene letting me hear this through internal dialogue?


message 16: by Jen (last edited Jul 29, 2009 08:28AM) (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments But the best way to display that conflict isn't, in my opinion, through internalized dialogue but through his actions- one day running and hunted, the next all zen-like, willingly led right to doom.

You are most surely a better person than I, as I found his weakness and lack of confidence relieving- it is the same thing I would probably do if I was torn between what all goodness and truth expected of me. I would be fish floppingly annoying with my actions, at one moment being brave, sure of my God and what must be done, and the other tripping over myself at the precipice of doubt and self worth.

I believe this man is being shown as a fool for the divine- a biblical kind of foolishness that somehow, in some way hits at the center of truth and exposes true humility in spite of crazy assed behavior, like many Old Testament prophets, covered with matted animal skins, mouths dirty with smeared honey and locust tidbits.

I was going to post this one on the title discussion, but to me, this explains the title. That "to thine be the Power and the Glory, forever", because things sure as hell don't make mortal sense, so they must be making a divine mosaic of immense proportions. That the things we do and the paths we take, even the bad turns, serve a purpose somehow, in spite of stupidity and pride. The whole inscrutable mess and mystery of it all. That is what I thought the author was getting at, but it is more likely I am the one missing the point entirely.


message 17: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 08:35AM) (new)

Ben So Jen, why do you think the priest lets innocent people die?

I get what you're saying about Greene, but what kind of morally sick character (that I'm supposed to like?!) lets THAT happen.


message 18: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments You are not going to like my answer.

He doesn't.


message 19: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 09:12AM) (new)

Ben !




: )


message 20: by Jen (last edited Jul 29, 2009 09:31AM) (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments I think the crowd assembled there let him be taken- the priest was a stranger in his own home (another biblical reference) and did not have the right to allow or forbid the death of that individual.

The collective damned that individual. Not the lone priest.

And now, I will await my nosebleed for that comment. Jab away :)


message 21: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 11:44AM) (new)

Ben So the Bible told the priest that he didn't have the right to "forbid the death of" innocent people even though he could have, easily. Either he steps up and they don't die, or he lets them die: it's that simple. And if the reason he stood back and let these individuals get killed was due to his interpretion of the Bible telling him to let it happen, then I still don't think I should like him. It still means he's a fool whose ignorance cost lives.

And true the collective public let it happen too, but that doesn't take away the burden of the priest because, after all, he's the reason the individuals were killed.


message 22: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Ben wrote: "He's weak and he lacks confidence but that isn't what bothers me about him. I can't get over him letting innocent villagers die when he could stop it by turning himself in. I realize the reason ..."

The moral weaknesses of the priest help me believe in this character, make him feel real. If he had been one of those saint-like characters who always think of others first, I sure wouldn't like him. He too is afraid to die, like most people would be. Also, him not turning himself is partly because of his fear of death and partly because his faith teaches him that it is his duty to protect himself first, he doesn't have a right to choose life or death for anyone including himself (if I remember this correctly). And later on you will find instances which provide ample evidence that he does think about others. Like Jen mentioned, his ambivalence becomes fairly apparent through his thoughts and actions.


message 23: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Jen wrote: "I think the crowd assembled there let him be taken- the priest was a stranger in his own home (another biblical reference)..."

I know next to nothing about the Bible or Christianity. I think the only biblical allusion I understood was the Judas reference, because it was explicitly mentioned, so I could look it up on Wikipedia. Will that make a lot of difference to how I perceive the story?
I think I have an understanding of where each character stands. But I mostly made my judgements based on what seems right or wrong, and not on what bible says(except the places where those teachings are explicitly mentioned).


message 24: by Ben (new)

Ben his faith teaches him that it is his duty to protect himself first.

I was not aware of this Catholic teaching. If that is the case then I now understand...


message 25: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) I wasn't aware of this either. But I am quite sure this is mentioned somewhere in the book. I will let you know if I can find out exactly where.


message 26: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 11:03AM) (new)

Ben Thanks Megha. I'll look for it too. I appreciate the help and input you and Jen have provided. Trust me, I want to like the priest and probably will if I can get over this. And I'll get over it if in fact his religion teaches him that the life of a priest is not to be sacrificed in the place of non-priests.


message 27: by Jen (last edited Jul 29, 2009 11:28AM) (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments Ben wrote: "So the Bible told the priest that he didn't have the right to "forbid the death of" innocent people even though he could have, easily. Either he steps up and they don't die, or he lets them die.: ..."

Ben,

The biblical reference to being a stranger in one's own home was just that, a reference. It had no bearing on excusing his action or inaction, just there. He went to his own people, and his own people received him not...that kind of thing.

Strangely enough, I don't think the whiskey priest would agree with me...he would be wildly waving his hand sky high wanting to absorb the guilt and blame. He was an observer of the situation almost- he let the crowd decide for him what should be done with him. If offering up yourself to the mercy of the local collective's decision is morally wrong, then he was to blame. The locals decided what to do with the situation. He didn't argue against the will of the people there but he didn't argue for it either- he was the item up for debate and I think he was willing to abide by their conclusion either way.

Megha,

I don't think you have missed anything much- if anything you brought up something else that the priest discovered- that right and wrong/good and evil was not a black and white road as the Catholic Church seemed to at times imply, but a gray path through a hard wilderness- that evil people can do very good things and good people can do very bad things. One could deduce that the fangtooth was a sham, a poser, a traitor while he claimed to be good, a good Catholic, a "child of God"- that the Priest Jose was the same. And that the "villains" could do very good things- be very good- the conflicted lieutenant, the murderer who with his last gasps tried to...well, I think I have spoiled enough already.


message 28: by Megha (last edited Jul 29, 2009 05:25PM) (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Ben wrote: "Thanks Megha. I'll look for it too. I appreciate the help and input you and Jen have provided. Trust me, I want to like the priest and probably will if I can get over this. And I'll get over it..."

Ben, here are some relevant passages from the book:

"The church taught that it was every man's duty to save his own soul."

"If he left them, they would be safe:and they would be free from his example:he was the only priest the children could remember. It was from him they would take their ideas of the faith. But it was from him too they took God - in their mouths. When he was gone it would be as if God in all this space between the sea and mountains ceased to exist. Wasn't it his duty to stay, even if they despised him, even if they were murdered for his sake, even if they were corrupted by his example? He was shaken by the enormity of the problem: he lay with his hands over his eyes: nowhere, in all the wide flat marshy land, was there a single person he could consult...."

Do you like the priest now, Ben?




message 29: by Ben (new)

Ben YES! Megha, I totally owe you one. Thank you!


message 30: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Great!


message 31: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Jen wrote: "Megha,

I don't think you have missed anything much- if anything you brought up something else that the priest discovered- that right and wrong/good and evil was not a black and white road as the Catholic Church seemed to at times imply, but a gray path through a hard wilderness- that evil people can do very good things and good people can do very bad things. One could deduce that the fangtooth was a sham, a poser, a traitor while he claimed to be good, a good Catholic, a "child of God"- that the Priest Jose was the same. And that the "villains" could do very good things- be very good- the conflicted lieutenant, the murderer who with his last gasps tried to...well, I think I have spoiled enough already."


Jen, thanks for your comments.


message 32: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell One thing I remember from from four years of Catholic High School is that they believe there is no salvation except through the church. Because of the doctrine of Apostolic succession, no ordained priest means no sacraments, no sacraments means no sanctifying grace, which means no salvation.

Although I'm not sure The Priest's believing this justifies (to me) his letting others die for him. So I somewhat agree with Ben's point.


message 33: by Megha (last edited Jul 29, 2009 06:01PM) (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) Personally I don't agree with everything the priest believes in, but I am keeping in mind that he is a Catholic. So if he follows Catholic teachings, I don't consider it wrong on his part, even if I don't always agree with those ideas.


message 34: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 06:14PM) (new)

Ben I agree Dave, that it still isn't completely justifiable. Because a religion "says so" or is interpreted as "saying so," doesn't make something okay. But given the priests' character traits, it's more understandable now. In some ways it's a strong example of the dissonance that he sometimes has between his faith and his conscience. It's interesting that the two don't always go hand in hand. Lot's of interesting matters of faith in this novel...


message 35: by Ben (last edited Jul 29, 2009 06:19PM) (new)

Ben What had bothered me before, I think, was that the priest didn't seem to have a strong reason, or a struggle of conscience, when faced with such a weighty predicament -- a predicament of which he was the cause. Having read the passage that Megha provided, I no longer believe that to be the case.


message 36: by Bram (new)

Bram This is a great discussion. I too found nothing to like in the Priest at first, and I think Greene's development of the character is pretty extraordinary. The arc is significant but never over-the-top, and I found his duality and ambivalence very compelling--this aspect also adds a lot to the drama of the story because we can never be sure which route--good or evil, selfish or selfless--the priest will take in any given situation.


message 37: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments Dave wrote: "One thing I remember from from four years of Catholic High School is that they believe there is no salvation except through the church. Because of the doctrine of Apostolic succession, no ordained..."

The tension that the priest feels between living out his faith and obeying the church's teachings is what makes the book so thought provoking for me. It gives a healthy realism to the story. The priest doesn't float a foot off the muddy ground blessedly sermonizing to all he meets full of the awareness of his own power among the people, sanctified with a golden ring over his head. He walks through the mud, for years hides out among them, plodding along through life shitting and eating and fucking just like everyone else, making mistakes and trying to find meaning in the mess of it all.
In a way I had a problem with the church's teachings about taking care of himself first. It seemed at odds with a vast portion of the holy scripture he seemed charged to impart. But, like Megha, I got past it.



message 38: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell The pattern was set in the first part. The Priest is drinking brandy with Mr. Tench waiting for the boat so he could escape, but then boy shows up and he has to go. He doesn't really seem to think about it too much. It's almost as if escape would be the bigger burden.


message 39: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments Dave wrote: "The pattern was set in the first part. The Priest is drinking brandy with Mr. Tench waiting for the boat so he could escape, but then boy shows up and he has to go. He doesn't really seem to thin..."

Yes. He gives himself up entirely to events. No "if it is to be, it is up to me" nonsense for him.


message 40: by Ben (last edited Jul 30, 2009 11:10AM) (new)

Ben This discussion has added a great deal to my understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the book. Thank you.

I only read a little last night. He spent the night in jail having fascinating conversations (especially with the Christian lady), and now it's morning and he was given a bucket to haul. That night in jail was awesome -- you all were right.


message 41: by Kim (new)

Kim (kmdoubleday) I, too, haven't had much dealing with this religion aspect (although I was raised 'catholic' but yeah, another story.) I am not sure how I stand regarding the whiskey priest, if I look at him straight on, I can like him, I can see his selflessness, his acts of faith and all that, but if I let my cynical side show, I think...this is a racket. This is where that power play comes in. He Likes the hold he has over the people. Sure, he often wishes he were caught or whatever, but either his guilt (yep, this is what I got from catholicism) or his sense of greater being drives him on. I think the passage where he's giving mass and he has that rush from changing the wine/bread into the body of Christ proves that for me. Then again, he has those moments in the prison where he wants the pious woman to hate him---or the scene with the child and the indian woman. I guess I'm just not that trustful of him. But, I also think that this makes him more human and I give kudos to Greene for fleshing him out so well.

Onto part 3. Sorry for the rambling. I'm finding I'm marking down a lot of passages that I like... that's always good. :)


message 42: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments I think the racket was more with the sister/brother pair later on. What did you think?


message 43: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell How do you mean, Jen? What kind of racket is the Lehr's running?*


*That sentence doesn't sound right, but it's grammatically correct, right?


message 44: by Kim (new)

Kim (kmdoubleday) I'm not really sure of the point of the Lehrs, except to showcase the non catholic detached angle. They were a bit passive/aggressive.

After a day muddling this, I'm liking it a little more.


message 45: by Jen (new)

Jen (missonethousandspringblossoms) | 60 comments Kim wrote: "I'm not really sure of the point of the Lehrs, except to showcase the non catholic detached angle. They were a bit passive/aggressive.

After a day muddling this, I'm liking it a little more. "


The kind where their spirituality was sterile. Either false or not at all deep enough to struggle with the daily practice of what they professed. I could be coming down harder on them simply because I was raised Protestant and they reminded me of Protestant Peter Pans ("think happy thoughts, take care to groom yourself and become as we are").



message 46: by Suzann (new)

Suzann Skipping back in the discussion...When Coral suggests (early in the story)that the priest turn himself in to save others, he rejects the idea immediately, in the middle it's a moral question he considers, and at the end he has the faith and understanding and perhaps love to take that action. I';ll put comments on the last part in the other discussion.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Ben wrote: "What had bothered me before, I think, was that the priest didn't seem to have a strong reason, or a struggle of conscience, when faced with such a weighty predicament -- a predicament of which he w..."

I'm gonna jump in here. This is a great discussion with great points on all sides. I'm leaning on the side of Jen here. Although while I am reading the passages where it appears the priest is selfish for not turning himself in, upon reflection I become more of an apologist. To begin with, what crime is he committing that he should be hunted down and likely killed? He was a priest, and even though he could not remain abstenant and he got his drink on as much as possible, he was clearly a victim. So it is interesting that during those scenes we, even if just for a moment, at least for a moment think that he is selfish. Yes, he is willing to let somebody else potentially die in his place, but he committed no crime himself. It would be different if he was a murderer or something like that. And further, like Jen said, anyone in the village could have turned him in to save their neighbor yet had a selfish reason of their own in why they would not. What did they have to lose by turning him in? Perhaps they felt they would lose what salvation they had.

In his mind he feels guilty for not turning himself in yet also feels it his duty. By the same token he is conflicted about ditching the half-caste that wants to turn him in for some pesos!





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