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The Power and the Glory

  • Study Guide

Part I: Chapter Two

Summary Part I: Chapter Two

The lieutenant's ideals concerning order and law can be seen even in his dress. While the lieutenant professes his belief that the universe is fundamentally chaotic, his lifestyle and his meticulous concern for his appearance indicate a desire for order and structure. Greene describes the lieutenant's dress as "dapper", while the other policemen are disheveled. Indeed, he is set apart from his surroundings as well: buildings are dilapidated, the landscape is marshy, overgrown and humid.

Perhaps, then, the figure who is meant to serve as a contrast to the lieutenant is not the priest, but the hapless, incompetent and numb Mr. Tench. Unlike Mr. Tench, the lieutenant has passion and motivation. For Greene, the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. Both love and hate signify emotional investment, a connection to and a concern about the world, even if hate is an ultimately negative concern. Apathy indicates a lack of commitment and an unconcern for life itself. Connections between the priest and the lieutenant will become clearer as the book progresses, but even in these early chapters Greene is preparing us to question the stereotypical contrasts we may be tempted to draw.

The boy and his family, whose house the priest visited after leaving Tench, serve throughout the novel as a way for Greene to explore the effects of the state's religious intolerance on a pious family. Left with only bad examples of priests for her children, the mother struggles to impart her faith to her offspring. Already it is evident that she can no longer hold her son's attention, as he expresses a lack of interest in the story of the martyred boy, Juan. Children are extremely important in this novel, and one reason is that the future of faith in the state and the response to this wave of religious persecution is uncertain.

Padre Jose represents a foil for the protagonist, the nameless priest. While both begin the novel full of shame about themselves, Padre Jose's choice to live an easeful, sedentary life contrasts sharply with the arduous, wandering life chosen by the priest.