Theme of Communication
Communication is a very significant theme in the novel. When the priest is captured and about to be killed, the Marxist lieutenant says: “Well, you’re going to be a martyr”. The priest’s reply to him is that martyrs are not like the priest. He further says that they are not all the time thinking about being afraid. Another scene of dialogue in the novel is between the stranger and the priest. When the stranger got up grudgingly after being called upon to an occasion he would not pass by, his reply was that, “It always seems to happen like this.” The priest said to him, “You’ll have a job not to miss the boat,” the priest replied, “I shall miss it,” (Greene P. 17).
This novel also highlights the failed efforts by several characters to communicate significantly to each other. Greene uses the Eucharist’s communion as the figure of speech delineating their failed attempts. At the early pages of the novel, the dentist Tench poured brandy (symbolic wine) for the priest to drink, when he symbolically usurps the role of a celebrant. Calver, the American outlaw, as well as the nameless priest also live in a parallel supernatural relationship throughout the novel. Their outdated pictures have been hanged in the police station (Greene p. 19).
The priest is also incapable to communicate effectively with Maria, a very important demonstration that cites the pathos of celibacy in priests. Maria provides the ingredients needed for the Mass celebration, but the priest makes quickly the sacrifice because the police may turn up and therefore they do not engage in any communication. He also does “communicate” fully with Maria in the context of marriage because he is prohibited to do so as a priest.
The author portrays a picture of the two similar traits that the priest and the Lieutenant have by using a metaphor of mistaken identity in the novel. Both characters portray combination of good and evil or noble idealism and flaws. This is the reason why the scenes of mistaken identity between the Lieutenant and the Priest are portrayed to show the resemblance of the two characters. At times, their positions are interchangeable to demonstrate the same aspect. The irony in the novel is that the lieutenant shares some attributes with the priest although he is pursuing and hunting him in order to destroy him.
The narrator wishes to portray that the lieutenant resembles the priest in that he is endowed with much weakness of the flesh as the priest is. One major difference between these two characters in this aspect is that the lieutenant does not like nor tolerate these weaknesses of flesh, while the priest on the other hand tolerates them by “tasting” them and loving their result. When the priest was arrested, he said; “But I’m bad priest…I know from the experience and how much beauty Satan carried when he fell.” (Greene p.130).
The “power” and the “glory”
This is found in the entire context of the novel. Greene uses the phrase “sagacious power” in every novel’s chapter. This is meant to reflect on power usage in both political and religious themes of the novel. In summary, the Lieutenant represents power by being an implacable leader and without glory.
The priest on the other hand attains glory by convincingly being able to overcome his weaknesses; sinful past, internal deep feelings of guilt, running from the pursuit by the government, at least as long as he could. The author portrays the priest overcoming these challenges and performing actions of a hero. For example, “pain is part of joy…We deny ourselves so that we can enjoy…Pray that you suffer more …which is part of the preparation of heaven”(Greene p.69). The priest here teaches that he has had problems on earth but will experience joy in heaven and therefore he is confident that he is an overcomer in this life. The priest therefore though powerless presents “glory” in this novel.
The connection between “power” and “glory” in this novel sometimes makes a representation of a clash of opposites. The author himself has implied that in the introduction when he describes the Lieutenant as “a counter to the failed priest; the idealistic police officer who subdued life with the best possible motives, the drunken priest who continued to pass life on” (p.ix). The relationship between “power” and “glory” is therefore dramatized in the entire novel by the two main characters, the Lieutenant and priest, and the relationship they have with each other.
The whiskey priest may have been an alcoholic and commits a mortal sin and therefore he is not a perfect person as he states that he is not a saint or a brave man. This is not an inaccurate statement as demonstrated by the author as the priest is selfless and able to easily forgive and forget. Graham Greene shows this was both an accurate and inaccurate statement as given by the whiskey priest. The statement’s inaccuracy is shown by the theme of forgiveness as given in the novel.
Graham Greene demonstrates forgiveness of the whiskey priest by forgiving the Mestizo. Mestizo narrates to the priest about the fellow fugitive, a man in trouble and who was in need of his blessing. This was, nevertheless, a trap that ended up costing the priest his life. However, we find that he is willing to forgive and overlook this great betrayal. This is something shown well after the forgiveness of the Mestizo, considering the waving of the priest’s hand, whereby he did not bear any grudge as he looked forward to nothing else of anything human, a demonstration that the priest is indeed a forgiving man. (Greene P. 198).
Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. New York: Viking Press, 1946. Print.