The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. Published in 1940.
Originally published in 1940, under the original American title The Labyrinthine Ways, The Power and the Glory has been widely read (by the general public) and researched (by literary academics everywhere).
The ironic title is a doxology from the Christian’s Lord Prayer. The title is ironic because the main character, a priest half-heartedly avoiding capture in a state where religion has been outlawed, has very little power and no glory whatsoever. This priest, who is supposed to represent God’s message on Earth, is an alcoholic, hopeless, desperate, poor man who doesn’t trust anyone. The obvious irony of it makes the title itself a very powerful statement.
The title is not the only thing that has changed throughout the versions. One area of study surrounding the book is the comparisons of different versions of the texts, where certain, impactful lines vary. (I will discuss this more in depth in a future blog!)
**Slight Spoiler** As many plotlines do, this story creates a circle, ending where it began. Without giving away the ending, I will say that minor characters that appear for a short time in the beginning of the novel, appear again in the last few pages, yet nowhere in-between. Also, a very important aspect of the story appears to “start over fresh” in the last few lines, suggesting that perhaps the entire story will occur again to another individual. This type of cycle is a successful plot structure because it creates the sense that the story is eternal and not unique to this individual.
I don’t particularly like talking about the “themes” of stories because I don’t think every story needs to or should have one. For example, another of Greene’s novels, Our Man in Havana, focuses mainly on entertaining the reader without a clear theme. However, The Power and the Glory has a common thread that can’t be ignored. The downfall of man is present in every step of the novel. First, the novel is set in a time when the government has outlawed all religion, which is a dominant source of hope and happiness for many people. Without religion, one is led to believe that death is the end, that no eternal happiness or “life ever after” follows. Some characters in the novel even state that they believe death on Earth is the end of being.
The story was a bit too political and unclear for my liking. Names were too often averted, characters were always hiding the truth and the drama was written in a very calm tone. These things made the story hard to follow at times, and no clear goal was ever established. Even the priest’s goal of not being caught did not ground the reader because the priest himself seemed it was only a matter of time, he did not fear it, and often walked knowingly into situations that could get him caught and killed. His wishy-washy character made me not care if he got caught. Therefore, I had no real suspense or emotion invested in the story.
Most people would agree that The Power and the Glory is a 5 star novel, but my personal taste has to disagree. I’m giving it 3 stars (and honestly, it would probably be lower if there wasn’t so much outside praise influencing me.) If you’re a literary nut like me it is well worth a read and I hope you enjoy it more than I did! If you simply want to read a fun, emotional, entertaining story, I would suggest you grab Greene’s Our Man in Havana instead. Its an entertaining, funny story that incorporates a unique writing style.
Previous Book Reviews:
The Shining by Stephen King
The Storm at the Door by Stefan Merrill Block
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Future Book Reviews:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
The Prestige by Christopher Priest