It is striking that at the end of the novel we find all the expatriates fleeing the state, and that their flight coincides with the execution of the last remaining priest, but compared with the others, only Mr. Tench seems to have made a significant improvement in his outlook. His flight seems to represent a first, tentative step towards giving his life some sense of direction, and Greene makes it clear that his brief encounter with the priest had some kind of lasting impact upon him. Mr. Tench, appalled by the sight of the priest's execution and obviously stirred in some way by his wife's letter, decides that he will leave Mexico for good. In the previous chapter, the priest despaired about having to return to God "empty-handed", but it is evident from this scene that he made more of an impact on people than he realized.

The priest's positive influence becomes even more obvious in the book's final episode. The priest's execution has made the priest a martyr in the young boy's eyes and, to his mind, the state has taken away the last hero in the land. The priest and the lieutenant unknowingly vied throughout this novel for the boy's soul, and the boy now makes it clear that he has chosen to emulate the priest not the lieutenant when he spits at the lieutenant in disgust. The spirit of defiance, fueled by the priest's sacrifice, lives on. The boy's dream of the dead priest flickering his eyelids is a kind of mini-resurrection scene. Indeed, the dream itself is an indication that the priest's example and his influence have transcended his death. And in the book's final scene, a man known simply as "the stranger" knocks at the boy's door. The book has come full circle: another unnamed priest has emerged from the shadows to defy the state by remaining among the people. The lieutenant, by attempting to stamp out religion, has only helped it to take root more firmly in the land.