Graham Greene pieced together The Power and the Glory from his own personal memoirs in 1940 after a three-year trip to Mexico. Drawing from his own observations of a small town torn between the anti-religious laws of the secular government and the people's religious beliefs, Greene created the story of a Catholic priest being pursued by the police to illustrate the conflicting relationship between the church and state (Greene 2-4). Greene used his experiences in Mexico to create an extended allegory that illustrates the conflict between the two world views and, in turn, reveals his own values and philosophy.
Drawing from his experience in Mexico, Greene developed a "whiskey priest," a character introduced to Greene by a friend in Mexico in a story of a drunken priest that christened a child by the wrong name, to embody the religious world view. The priest, who remains nameless throughout the novel to emphasize his allegorical role, is less an individual than a symbol of the "Church [and] of the cumulative wisdom of the past, in short, of Western Humanism" (DeVitis 89). The priest, however, is seen as a traitor to the state and to his religion. The last Catholic priest in a secular Mexican state, the priest's photograph is hung next to that of a notorious American gangster on the wall of the police office. The priest's tendency towards gin, cowardliness, and his moral weakness make him a traitor to his faith and religious order. On the allegorical level of the novel, the priest's flight from the police is seen as a "flight from God" and away from becoming a saint (DeVitis 90). Refusing to accept his destiny of being captured by the police and becom...
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...ce into paradise" (Hynes 67). Only after the priest's execution is the lieutenant forced to realize his own emptiness and does Greene reveal his religious compassion.
Although often criticized for being "chiefly Roman Catholic," The Power and the Glory masterfully illustrates the intense conflict between the secular and religious world views (Hynes 70). By developing complex allegorical characters, Graham Greene achieves an almost myth-like quality.
Allot, Kenneth and Miriam Farris, The Art of Graham Greene. New York: Russell & Russell, 1951.
DeVitis, A. A., Graham Greene. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1964.
Greene, Graham, The Power and the Glory. New York: The Viking Press, 1940.
Hynes, Samuel ed., Graham Greene: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1973.
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