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The Power and the Glory | Study Guide

Graham Greene

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The Power and the Glory | Part 3, Chapter 2 | Summary



After a five-hour trek, the mestizo and the priest reach a deserted cluster of Indian huts, where the mestizo says the American is waiting. Still suspicious, the priest does find the American inside, near death. The priest tries to hear his confession, but the American will say nothing except to tell the priest to beat it, refusing to confess. He offers the priest his gun and his knife and dies without having repented of his sins. The priest tries to pray—"after all he was thinking of me, it was for my sake"—but he sees himself as no better than the criminal.


Although the priest expects to be caught, he does not expect the criminal to reject the opportunity for confession, even if the criminal is trying to save the priest's life. Angry, he pushes the criminal to let go of his violence. The priest believes the criminal wants "vicarious violence," but in fact the criminal's intentions are unclear. He tells the priest he will need a gun, but he doesn't say why. Does he anticipate the priest will shoot his way out to avoid capture? Or does he think the priest might shoot himself rather than be captured? Of course neither is likely, but the criminal could be showing altruism rather than seeking revenge. In the criminal's refusal to confess and repent, the priest has failed once again in his vocation and reinforced his character as a bad, in this instance ineffectual, priest but a good man.

The priest mentions a thief; it is the second time the biblical thief is mentioned, the first being during the priest's conversation with the pious woman in jail. In the Bible, Jesus is crucified together with two thieves. According to the Gospel of Luke, one thief verbally attacks Jesus, demanding he save himself and the two thieves as well. The other thief, often called "the penitent thief" or "the good thief," says they deserve their punishment, but Jesus does not. He asks Jesus to remember him. Jesus promises the good thief will go to heaven. The pious woman mentioned the good thief, encouraging the priest to live a good life in the future, something the priest said was impossible. Now the priest offers the same opportunity to the dying criminal and thinks he has failed because the criminal does not repent. The priest sees himself as no better than the criminal, although he longs for the heaven he describes and from which he believes forever barred.

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