Literature: The Power and the Glory

The lieutenant said in a tone of fury: "Well, you're going to be a martyr—you've got that satisfaction." "Oh, no. Martyrs are not like me. They don't think all the time—if I had drunk more brandy I shouldn't be so afraid."

The Power and the Glory is a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1940. It takes place in Mexico during the time when, in several states, religion (and priests) were outlawed. The hero is a nameless alcoholic priest who has decided, unlike most, to stay in Mexico as a fugitive from the state and a savior to the people. The novel is generally considered a literary masterpiece.

The novel was loosely adapted by John Ford as The Fugitive (1947), starring Henry Fonda. Greene hated the movie.
Tropes include:

  • The Alcoholic: The priest, understandably.
  • Always Someone Better: The priest has this view of all the other clerics who are better at their vocation than he is. Subverted, though, since ultimately he's the only one remaining in the country.
  • Anti-Hero: the whiskey priest.
  • Anti-Villain: the lieutenant.
  • Bookends: A mother reading stories of the saints to her children.
  • Characters as Device: The lieutenant, whose only role in the story is the foil to the priest.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The American convict; the priest baptising a (male) baby Birgitta whilst drunk.
  • Corrupt Church: Playing with this is more or less the entire focus of the novel. The priest sacrifices everything to due his duty, yet charges poor people for baptisms in order to buy alcohol, is often drunk and has a child. The saintly Bishop flees the country to preside over a cathedral in safety. The only other priest remaining, Father Jose, conforms to the demand to marry and abandons his vocation.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Tench the dentist.
  • Dirty Cop: The Chief of Police (unknowingly) drinks (illegal) alcohol with the priest. Also a larger theme: both the church and the state have corrupt practitioners.
  • Downer Ending: From a certain perspective.
  • Hope Spot: Three notable examples, though the entire novel is full of them. The priest's first failed escape. The priest buying wine and whiskey, only to have the latter drunk, and The priest escaping over the border when it becomes clear that his presence is only putting others in danger. He then returns, knowing it's a trap, in order to do his duty. Throughout the novel, the priest is given the opportunity to escape, only each time something stops him.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A recurring message: Every human is a sinner, and most of the sins are small and pathetic and cowardly.
  • Humans Are Good: Also recurring, and because of, not in spite of, the above. Every character is a sinner, but also everyone is good.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: The priest, constantly. For two reasons: for himself, and for Communion wine.
  • Jumped at the Call: Inverted. The priest did, for his vocation initially, yet never took it seriously and looked only for the perks. When the persecution began, he never intended to stay, yet every time he tries to leave an incident occurs that makes him realise that he is still needed. His spiritual vocation seems to just have grown at some point along the way.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: The lieutenant belives this. Played with, in the case of the priest: he becomes more and more aware of the flaws of the church, but remains ferciously loyal to what it is in spirit above what it is on earth.
  • No Name Given: Both the priest and the lieutenant.
  • The Noun and the Noun
  • Police State
  • Secret Police
  • The So-Called Coward: The priest reminds everyone, at every opportunity, that he's flawed and cowardly man.
  • Worthy Opponent: Played with. The lieutenant is a brave and principled man, albeit a ruthless fanatic; the priest eventually comes to see him as a good one. The priest, a good man, is eventually seen by the lieutentant as a brave and principled one.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The lieutenant, trying to improve his country and its people, which he sees as in thrall to a Corrupt Church. In order to do this, he is happy to order the deaths of men he knows are perfectly innocent and randomly chosen in order to find one priest. Yet the priest believes he's a good man, as only a good man would give money to someone he thought was a worthless beggar.

Alternative Title(s):

The Power And The Glory