The Power and the Glory

Characters

The lieutenant

Characters The lieutenant

Driven by an obsessive hatred for the Catholic Church, the lieutenant will stop at nothing to apprehend and execute the priest, who, he believes, is the last remaining clergyman in the state. The lieutenant is a principled, disciplined man with a strong sense of justice. He is committed to political ideals that he thinks will help the poor and create equality and tolerance in the state. Unfortunately, he oftentimes allows his focus on his noble goal to obscure questions about the means he is employing to reach that goal. The most striking example of this is his decision to round up hostages and execute people if the villagers lie to him about the priest's whereabouts. As we see, the selection process is entirely arbitrary, hardly just, and extremely violent. It is easy to see why the people are as skeptical of the state as they are of the church. But even this person is capable of change. From time to time throughout the novel he shows that he is not an unkind person. After his conversation with the captured priest, he softens considerably, trying to find someone to hear the priest's confession and bringing him a bottle of brandy to quiet his fears. The political movement to which he belongs has taught him to look at people in generalized terms: that is, all priests are bad and all those working for the lieutenant's cause are good. The priest, who proves himself to be modest, intelligent and compassionate, disrupts the lieutenant's habitual way of looking at the Catholic clergy. By the end of the novel, he has accomplished his mission, but he feels a strange sense of emptiness and despondency. Without a target, his life has no meaning or sense of purpose and Greene suggests that lingering doubts fill the lieutenant's mind troubling him about whether he has done the right thing by killing the priest.