Table of Contents
The plot of The Power and the Glory is a simple one. It is the story of a priest who tries to practice his faith while seeking safety in the anti-religious age in Mexico. He journeys from Carmen through various villages and back to Carmen again, with the Lieutenant constantly in pursuit of him. Imprisonment and release take him away from Carmen a second time. Again, he moves from village to village performing his priestly duties until he is arrested and brought back to Carmen, where he is shot by the antagonist, the Lieutenant.
Although the plot line is a simple one, the focus behind the plot is much deeper. Greene examines the question of a person's sin versus his/her salvation. The Whisky Priest has lived under terrible conditions in Mexico for years in order to carry out God's will. He continues to practice his faith and minister to the people in spite of being half-starved and assaulted by police. In fact, his death is caused by his determination to perform his priestly duties. He leaves the safety of the mountains to administer the Last Rites to Calvin, a bank robber and murderer. Because of this action, he is seen by the Lieutenant and shot.
Despite his profession and his helpful ways, the Whisky Priest is also a sinner. He has been pompous, he drinks too much, and he has committed adultery, fathering a child as a result. He feels very guilty about his sins, but his feelings do not shake his faith in the Church. He knows that the Church will go on after his death, and indeed, at the end of the novel, a new priest arrives in the province to take his place.
The Church is eternal and triumphant, and no repressive regime can destroy it.
The mood of the novel is gloomy. The picture of the world as presented through Mexico is chaotic, and sin is ever present. Vultures, snakes, hyenas, beetles, turkeys, and sharks are all unpleasant creatures contributing to the mood. The physical features of the land are made up of swamps and dark forests with creatures lurking about. Fever, blinding heat, poverty, hunger, and thirst enhance the gloom. Decay, squalor, human degradation, and fear are highlighted, but there is a ray of hope and that is the possibility of love.