The Power and the Glory | Study Guide

Graham Greene

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The Power and the Glory | Quotes


Everyone says ... you do no good. I can hear them ... all over the world.

Priest, Part 1, Chapter 1

Mr. Tench tries to discourage the priest from responding to a call for help, and these words are the priest's answer, capturing his desperation: he feels he cannot stop, but he worries he does no good. His words also express a common attitude in the world at the time, when good people claimed they could do nothing to stop the actions of evil people like the Nazis.


The dignity of people afraid of a little pain ... yet sitting down with some firmness.

Mr. Tench, Part 1, Chapter 1

The idea of pain or suffering occurs repeatedly in this book. In this excerpt Greene explores how facing what frightens or hurts a person can confer dignity. The statement describes the priest, who is not a dignified person normally, but who finds a certain dignity in doing his job in the face of danger.


Like the King of a West African tribe ... who may not even lie down in case the winds should fail.

Priest, Part 1, Chapter 1

The priest thinks this about himself as he gives up his escape to respond to a woman's request for help. The simile expresses the priest's sense of his own responsibilities: his people expect him to solve their problems, even the problems no human being can fix. He is weary, just as a man would be who was never allowed to lie down, but his identity is rooted in responding to others.


Demands made from the altar steps by men who didn't know the meaning of sacrifice.

Lieutenant, Part 1, Chapter 2

This is the lieutenant's fiercest criticism of the Catholic Church: priests who ask people to give money and food when the people themselves are starving. Catholic churches were often lavishly decorated, and priests lived much easier lives than the peasants in the community. The lieutenant, who grew up poor, resents this attitude and treatment.


Wherever he went, whatever he did, he defiled God.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

The narrator is describing Padre José, a priest who agreed to marry and give up his calling. But being a priest is a lifelong commitment, a part of his identity, as indicated by people still calling him "Padre." Padre José believes he is defiling or dishonoring God, simply by remaining alive. Yet, he is too frightened of death; his fear accounts for his having accepted this marriage arrangement in the first place.


You cannot control what you love—you watch it driving recklessly towards the broken bridge.

Captain Fellows, Part 1, Chapter 3

Captain Fellows thinks this about his daughter, Coral, who seems to run the outpost more than he does. In a broader sense, it expresses how parents may feel about children or how a priest might feel about his congregation. Sometimes they simply have no control and stand by.


It needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt.

Priest, Part 2, Chapter 1

The priest repeatedly ponders the nature of God's love. Christians believe Jesus was crucified to wipe away their sins and died out of love for them. The priest thinks God must have a tremendous capacity for love if God is willing to die for such flawed people, himself included.


When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity.

Priest, Part 2, Chapter 3

The priest is talking to the pious woman in the dark jail cell. She is judgmental and critical, but the priest wants to accept and understand her. The priest believes if he visualizes her, he can recognize her humanity and understand her instead of judging her.


That was another thing this country taught you—never ask questions or ... look ahead.

Mr. Lehr, Part 3, Chapter 1

Mr. Lehr displays minimal curiosity about the priest and what has happened to him. Mr. Lehr has decided that the way to survive is to avoid getting involved, while the priest chooses to involve himself.


God might forgive cowardice and passion ... was it possible to forgive the habit of piety?

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 1

Once the priest is in a safe region, he feels himself slipping back into his old behaviors. He now associates piety with other sins, such as cowardice and passion, and he wonders if piety is forgivable. To Greene, piety is worse because it builds up walls of judgment between the priest and the people. Piety makes a priest see himself as better than ordinary people.


What was the good of confession when you loved the result of your crime?

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 1

This is one of the priest's fundamental problems. For Catholics to confess and be forgiven, they must feel regret for their sins. The priest cannot regret the conception of his child, so how can he confess? But if he cannot confess, he cannot go to heaven when he dies.


Pride was what made the angels fall. Pride's the worst thing of all.

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 3

The priest believes his pride led him to many sins, thinking himself better than other people and being able to ignore some of the Church's rules. Greene also suggests that people who are proud of their piety lose the chance to offer significant help to others who are struggling, for they look down on them instead of loving and helping them.


God's love ... set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it.

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 3

The priest describes God's love as being powerful and frightening. He alludes to the biblical story of Moses, who saw God in a burning bush, and to other biblical stories; he gives examples of things believers accept in the Bible, even though those signs would terrify them in real life.


This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world.

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 4

The priest sees his love for his daughter as a failure, a sin, because he should not have conceived her. Now, near the end of his life, he thinks the love he feels for his daughter should have been the love he had for everyone in the world. In effect, the priest thinks he should have been able to love people as God loves people: a noble goal but difficult for any human being to achieve, even a priest.


He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed.

Priest, Part 3, Chapter 4

The priest faces his execution and believes he is going "empty-handed" because he did not do enough good works in his time on Earth. He is disappointed in himself and believes God will be disappointed in him as well.

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