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The Power and the Glory

  • Study Guide

Part I: Chapter Four

Summary Part I: Chapter Four

The presence of Padre Jose, meanwhile, awakens hope in the funeral goers, but his refusal to get involved or take a risk makes the ceremony more traumatic than it would have been without him. It is hard to know quite what to make of this scene: on the one hand, Padre Jose does no one a service by being so cowardly, and his frightened, mousy character stands in direct opposition to the stories of brave martyrs (such as the one about the boy, Juan, a story to which the novel continually returns). At the same time, however, his chance encounter with the family at the funeral awakens in them emotions that are perhaps better and more human than the numbness they had been experiencing before his arrival.

The next two scenes involve parents instructing—or trying to instruct—children, and in both cases, the parents prove ineffectual or uninspiring. Mrs. Fellows becomes characteristically nervous when Coral questions her directly about God, and Mr. Fellows is nowhere to be found. Again, the brief, chance encounter with the priest has stirred important questions in someone. The mother reading to her children about the martyr Juan is clearly a much more admirable figure than Mrs. Fellows, and yet she also seems to be failing to engage her son. His father, not a very religious man, makes an important point about the church's role as a key component in the fabric of the community: whether you believe in what it preaches or not, he seems to argue, it was an organization that brought people together. Many people are isolated in this novel, even people who are living in a large town, in the midst of many others. Camaraderie, fellowship, a sense of social togetherness remain largely absent from this novel, and the father, here, seems to argue for the church as a possible source of community feeling.

The lieutenant's conversation with the young boy shows him, once again, to have good intentions, motivated by the desire to rid the world of corruption and deceit. The lieutenant yearns for purity, he wishes, "to begin the world again with them, in a desert." Greene's point, however, is that purity is not a condition of this world, simply not something available to flawed human beings. As is the case so often, and as Greene emphasizes in this chapter especially, the lieutenant's obsessive pursuit of his impossible end can lead him to resort to horrific and self-defeating means. Impurity is a part of life, Greene suggests, and to attempt to rid the world of it entirely is, therefore, to become a killer.