A Passage with No Door: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory

A Passage with No Door: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory

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Flashbacks. Depression. Anger. Intense energy directed to one narrow goal. Significant impairment in certain social or occupational situations. These are the hallmark symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, a mental illness caused by the experience of a violent or disturbing event. One man struggles to cope with the stress and anxiety of reliving the past, and he only barely survives the world as an inferno of pain, guilt, blame, and violence. To survive this, he succumbs to revenge and discovers an outlet: the extermination of priests. In Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, the lieutenant is not an inherently evil character, but a man ruined by his traumatic past and inner turmoil.
Throughout the novel, the lieutenant remains an enigma, his motives unclear, his mind mysterious, his past engulfed in shadow. For the reader, it is difficult to understand this cipher of a character. However, the architecture of the lieutenant’s characterization has been cleverly mapped out by Greene; one must only search for clues to comprehend what motivates and drives this tortured man. What those clues reveal is the lieutenant’s horrifying, damaged past. From his first entrance in the novel, the lieutenant stands out from the rest of the police force: he personifies confidence, discipline, order, and austerity. He announces to the Chief of Police that he shall execute any villagers standing in his way of hunting down the fugitive “whiskey priest.” These villagers are the very people the lieutenant wants to protect from the exploitation of the Catholic Church, embodied by this final living, breathing, practicing priest. The lieutenant’s hatred of priests is so fierce that he violates his principles and will murder the innocent to achieve...

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...overing the past, the reader finds his or her own ability to almost forgive the horrific actions of this tortured, abandoned, broken man. The lieutenant’s brutal memories are like a Chinese finger-trap: the more he wrestles against them to achieve redemption, the more he bleeds and loses sight of his humanity. This is a man on the verge of a breakdown, though he may be changed for the better by his encounter with the priest. In several instances, he tries to be a good man---“I am not a barbarian” (190), he says to the priest. Yet he murders in cold blood. Leaving the lieutenant’s past up to interpretation for the reader, and suggesting possible motives for his actions, Graham Greene utilizes his formidable writing skills to create a disturbed, psychologically conflicted character the reader will not soon forget.

Works Cited
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

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