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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 4 | Summary



The lieutenant goes to see Padre José, who refuses to hear the priest's confession. When the lieutenant informs him, the priest is disappointed, although he understands Padre José's reasons. The lieutenant informs the priest he will be executed in the morning and offers him a flask of brandy, which he gratefully accepts. Before the lieutenant leaves, the priest asks him if there is a lot of pain when someone is shot. The lieutenant assures him it is over quickly and leaves.

The lieutenant struggles, feeling as if he has lost momentum and his reason for existing; the priest and the American are captured. The priest, left alone in his cell, tries to walk himself through confession. He realizes how much he loves his child, thinking, "Oh God, help her. Damn me, I deserve it, but let her live for ever." He begins to grieve for how much he could have done, but didn't, when the people "deserved a saint." When he does fall asleep, the priest dreams he is in a cathedral where others are worshipping; even Coral Fellows is there. The priest wakes up to see it is the morning of the day he will die and he thinks, "it would have been quite easy to have been a saint."


With the priest now caught, the lieutenant struggles with his own feelings. He is almost grateful Padre José refuses to come. The cowardice and the coarse conversation between Padre José and his wife remind the lieutenant of his beliefs; he feels superior for ridding himself of religion. He brings the captured priest some brandy, a generous act on the lieutenant's part but also a confirmation of the priest's weakness, and he dismisses the priest's fears about death. Yet, he is uneasy. He cannot hate the priest as he had. The lieutenant rips down the photos of the priest and the criminal, assuring himself he is restless because the chase is over. However, his emotions seem more complicated. The lieutenant may indeed have some of his own doubts.

As the priest, alone in his cell, attempts to hear his own confession, he again is stopped by love for his daughter. He loves his daughter more than others, and when he tries to pray for others, he knows he is really praying for Brigitta: a failure for a priest, although not a failure for a parent. Aware of his own failings, he knows the people deserved better and is sorry for letting them down. Greene does not attempt to ennoble the priest in this late chapter: the priest drinks and sobs, the third time he cries in the book. This time he cries from fear. He bargains with God to get out of the situation. He is human and not divine, although the Bible has Jesus himself praying to avoid death: "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me." Catholics believe Jesus was both human and divine at the same time; the human part of Jesus did not want to die, any more than the priest does.

The priest's dream is significant. He eats an assortment of food inside a cathedral but knows "when he had finished them, he would have the best dish of all." As he finishes, another priest saying Mass raises the Host, the moment in the Mass at which the bread is about to be consecrated. So, the "best dish of all" is communion with the body of Christ. He watches the other priest, and then notices his glass is filled with wine. Coral Fellows filled it, saying she obtained it from her "father's room." The word "father" is symbolic here. The priest is literally Brigitta's father. He is also referred to as "father," as all priests are. God is often referred to as "the Father," as in the Lord's Prayer, which begins with the address, "Our Father." The dream may represent the priest's worries about what he has not accomplished, or it may symbolize God's forgiveness. The Bible often uses the image of a "banquet" to represent Heaven, as in the 23rd Psalm. The priest is frightened and disappointed in himself, feeling now, at the end, that he might have been a saint if he'd just made a little more effort. Certainly, people have died for him.

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