The Power and the Glory | Study Guide

Graham Greene

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Course Hero, "The Power and the Glory Study Guide," October 16, 2017, accessed September 18, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Power-and-the-Glory/.

The Power and the Glory | Part 2, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

Weeks later, the priest returns to the Central American Banana Company outpost because he doesn't know where else to go. The place is deserted. The priest discovers an injured and starving dog and fights her for a bone so he can eat the few scraps of meat still on it. He wonders about Coral and reads a few of her school materials left behind. On the road again, the priest encounters an Indian woman carrying a three-year-old boy, who was shot multiple times. Before the priest can help, the boy dies. The woman and the priest can barely communicate. He asks what happened and she says, "Americano." She wants to take the boy to a church: "Iglesia," she keeps saying.

The two then travel together, eating nothing but large lumps of coarse sugar and not talking because they have few words in common. The woman carries the dead child strapped to her back. After a long walk, they find a strange graveyard on a plateau, the graves marked with crosses. The woman blesses the child's dead body with the cross. The woman will not leave the graveyard, and the priest goes on alone, ill and hallucinating. He ends up back at the graveyard, but the woman is gone. The dead boy is alone with an offering of sugar near him. The priest eats the offering and immediately feels sicker. He keeps walking until he finds a village, where unexpectedly, the residents welcome him. Collapsing against the wall of their church, he falls asleep.

Analysis

The priest is not heroic in this chapter, and readers can understand why he wants to be caught. He steals food from a starving, injured dog and a dead child. He wanders through a jungle in the pouring rain as he fights a fever and hallucinates. God may have saved him at the police station, but God is not saving him from all suffering. And the priest does suffer, as do others in this chapter, including the Fellows family and the little boy. The boy dies because of the "Americano," but Greene does not reveal what happened to the Fellows family. Most of their possessions are gone, but not all; some of Coral's school things are left behind. Did the family leave? Did something happen to Coral?

The priest finds an essay she was writing about the American Revolution, a compelling topic, considering she has been living through the aftermath of a modern revolution in Mexico. Her math assignment borders on the archaic, using terminology like "rood" for measurements. The poems Greene quotes are also old-fashioned but significant: "The Brook" by Tennyson and "Lord Ullin's Daughter" by Campbell. The refrain of the Tennyson poem, "For men may come and men may go, / But I go on for ever," shocks the priest yet shows how life goes on, even when people do not. So does the novel: the Fellows family is gone, the little boy is gone, and the world continues. If the priest goes, the world will continue without him, too. The other poem describes a father watching his daughter die because she is running away from his disapproval. This loss affects the priest, who has a deep love for his own daughter.

As he sets off with the woman and her dead child, the priest thinks of her desire for a church: "He hadn't so much as seen such a thing for years now." Yet by the end of the chapter he has found one. Somehow he has crossed the border. The priest has been ill, hallucinating, and expecting to find his grave. Arriving in a village that welcomes him, one with a church still standing, is almost like heaven. But the priest is too tired and ill to rejoice. The mood is one of bewilderment, rather than joy. He even gives his true name to a stranger—although Greene does not reveal it—"because he was tired and there seemed no object in going on living." The priest is safe now, but his safety seems of little importance to him, as despair, illness, and exhaustion consume his body and spirit. With the images of abandonment (the Fellowses' disappearance) and death (the boy), and the priest close to death himself, it seems unlikely the priest will find physical or spiritual safety and renewal.

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