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’S Deceptive Life Seen In: Essay, Research Paper

Graham Greene’s Deceptive Life Seen in:

The Power and the Glory






Joe ii


The Power and the Glory incorporates deception and shows the confusing influences Graham Greene has on his readers.

I. Influences in The Power and the Glory

A. Young life of Graham Greene

1. Family, Parents

a. Charles Greene

b. Marion Raymond

2. Drunkenness and college life

a. Balloil College

b. Experimentation with alcohol

3. Getting married to Vivien

4. Conversion to the Roman Catholic Church

5. Adultery to 47 prostitutes

B. Setting in the novel

1. Mexico

2. Influence in the novel during the times and at the location Greene visited

3. The Priest as a role model

C. Struggles to find happiness

1. Incorporation of Death into the novel

2. A Spy for the Russians

a. Undercover spy against the USA

b. Comparison to Robert Hanssen

3. Problems within the Church

a. No respect towards a cardinal

b. No respect towards Pope John Paul II

Problems within the Novel

Graham Greene’s Deceptive Life Seen in:

The Power and the Glory

“What he had experienced was a vacancy– a complete certainty in the existence of a dying, cooling world, of human beings who had evolved from animals for no purpose at all. He knew.” (Greene- Power 24-25) Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, confuses readers tends to mislead them about the ideas he is trying to get across. Greene was a man, who some say, incorporated deception in his life. The influence and Greene’s inner-struggle to measure evil is evident throughout as he makes villains sympathetic, innocent characters guilty, and heroes weak.

Graham Greene was born in Berkamstead, Hertfordshire, in the year 1904. His father and mother were Charles and Marion Raymond Greene. Graham went to Berkamstead school as a child, where his father was headmaster. Later, he went to Balliol College in Oxford, where he started to experiment around with alcohol. Greene said in his autobiography that he was drunk for one whole term from breakfast to bed. Early in The Power and the Glory, Greene’s portrayal of the main character, the “whisky” priest, is degrading for a leader of the Roman Catholic church. His teeth are described as being ‘spiritually unfit’ for the sacrament of the Eucharist. The “whisky” priest appears to be a drunken failure. This image could be seen as a priest with an addiction that is just a part of someone’s life, or it could be seen as Greene’s way of setting up the Roman Catholic church’s image of the last priest as weak and irresponsible. In the book, the “whisky” priest is with the governor’s cousin, the jefe, and a beggar in a hotel room. The priest has wine that he uses for saying mass in the towns he passes through. They end up getting drunk from the wine for mass until it is gone, leaving no way for him to celebrate the consecration at the next town. The image here of the priest is a failure with no control and no care for people who are counting on him to say mass for them.

Greene married Vivien Dayrell- Browning in 1926, which turned out to be a relationship that didn’t last. From the 1920s through the 1930s Greene recalled he had been with at least forty seven different prostitues. In the novel the “whisky”priest has illicit sex with a woman by the name of Maria. Their daughter named Briggita was conceived in sin. Does the priest even think of the future he is setting up for his child? Maria and Brigitta were abandoned by the priest early in the marriage. Not only does this whole sequence cause much confusion to the reader, it also shows the priest as a man who cannot follow his vows as a priest. It shows the priest as both a spiritual and physical parent. It leaves a woman and child poor and alone. This conception of authority in the church leaves the church helpless and subject to however Greene wants to make it appear. The adultery seen here in the book is a parallel to Greene’s own life.

Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926. He said, “I had to find a religion… to measure my evil against.” (Liukkonen no page given) He didn’t understand God’s grace and he hated being called a “Catholic novelist”. To Greene the religion of Roman Catholicism went no deeper than the hymns he sung before he converted. The fact that he didn’t even want to have the name of his religion in his title shows the ungratefulness towards his faith. Greene saw Roman Catholicism, not as a “creed for the triumphant”, but as a “religion for the desperate”. In the novel when asked to renounce his faith, the “whisky”priest replies, “It’s impossible. There’s no way. I’m a priest. It’s out of my power.” (Greene- Power 40) The priest was talking about how he couldn’t quit being a priest and sneak out of the country because the militia would hunt him down. This shows that the priest considered quitting the priesthood and running away from his job. Greene’s own weakness in his faith can be compared to the priest’s thought of running away from his problems.

Greene visited Tabasco, Mexico, in 1938 for only five weeks, during which time he wrote The Power and the Glory. This was his first and last trip to Mexico. Catholics in Mexico were in the process of getting over the persecution of the Mexican Government. Although persecution against the Catholic church was under control in most parts of Mexico, Greene just so happened to visit Tabasco, in which the fires of anti– catholicism were still smoldering. His impression of the country was awful and the fact that he was only there for five weeks greatly influenced and limited his ideas of the Mexican Government. Greene hated all he saw while he was in Mexico and left the thought that the US side of the border is much better than the Mexican side of the border. Vivien spent some of her time in Mexico with Greene. He didn’t want her with him, though, so he sent her back to the US. Vivien’s diary said that she was extremely lonely while waiting to get home and that she thought her husband was having some psychological problems. She was missing a sense of caring from her husband at the time. Obviously Greene is seen as having some stress in life while writing this novel.

The “whisky”priest is a role model for the Mexicans. They came from a culture that had been deeply rooted in the traditions of the Catholic faith. The narrator in the novel said, “He was the only priest most of them had ever known– they took their standard of the priesthood from him. Even the women.” (Greene- Power 66) The priest was their leader and they followed him. His weakness is shown as he tries to say confession here: “His eyes closed, his lips and tongue stumbled over the absolution, failed to finish.” (Greene- Power 45) Greene tears down an authority figure in the church yet again. It seems as if this whole book is about the degradation of the Roman Catholic church, the priests within it, and all of humanity as well.

Greene also incorporated death into the novel. From his ideas of death comes the development of failure. The Power and the Glory’s basis are failure and death. Mexico is full of death at a time when the country was getting back on its feet. Greene has every right to express failure and death in his books, but he takes it too far in this novel. “Death is the condition of this novel: it is its ambiance, its food and drink, its matrix, its lover, its demiurge, even its priest.” (Atkins 181-187) John Atkins explains how he sees death incorporated into the novel in this excerpt of his article. Here death is seen in almost every aspect of the book, especially through the main character, the ‘whisky priest’. Greene never states his themes straight out. His themes are brought about in the characters and their actions.

Greene was an undercover spy for the M.I.6, a division of the CIA during his earlier years. Supposedly Greene was undercover on the Russian side. Evelyn Waugh, an english writer and friend of Green said, “Greene is a secret agent on our side and all this buttering up of the Russians is cover.” (US News no page given) Waugh was explaining that Greene was on the side of the US and wasn’t a traitor. This idea that Greene was a spy for the Russians is a parallel to the present day arrest of the Catholic, Robert Hanssen. Hanssen was a spy for the Russians while working for the FBI. Greene’s position as a spy led to his connections with leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Ho Chi Minh of China. Both of these men were communist leaders. In The Power and the Glory the Mexican Government had a somewhat communist government which is also seen present in Greene’s life.

In the 1950’s the novel was condemned by the Holy Office of the Roman Catholic church shortly after it was published. Cardinal Pizzardo of Westminister told Greene that he needed to edit his book. The book had the main character as a no good person who was representing the Catholic church. Many officials in the church were upset at the book also. In one of Greene’s autobiographies he talked about Cardinal Pizzardo condemning his book. He purposely spelled the Cardinal’s name “Pissardo”. You can see the word “Piss” within his name. Greene was trying to show disrespect because he didn’t like the Cardinal for condemning his novel. Another instance when Greene shows disrespect to a Catholic church official is when he walking and talking with the current Pope John Paul II. Greene said he was “disgusted” with the Pope. He said, “I have no liking for him.” (Greene- World 54) He was referring to Pope John Paul the II. This all sounds hypocritical on Greene’s part because he claims to be a Roman Catholic himself. He is rude and arrogant when he shows the disrespect he does for the leaders of the religion he claims to belong.

The “whisky”Priest in the novel doesn’t understand his power or his glory. This could also be the case in the life of Greene. Greene wasn’t satisfied with his religion. In one of his autobiographies he said, “I made a great decision to turn my back on Christianity altogether and take up Buddhism.” (Greene- World 62) He contradicts his life again. He isn’t very persuasive as a propagandist for the Catholic church. He occasionally has an intelligent idea, then he gains resistance by the way he says it. He is not really a propagandist though. He is just using his position as a “catholic novelist” to get his ideas across to his readers. His obsession with his ideas blinds him to the truth. This creates confusion for the non– catholic readers of his books.

Deep down Greene had another character within himself. He created religious tales filled with doubt, such as The Power and the Glory. He made up his own sort of Catholicism based on how he wanted his beliefs to be heard through his writings. Deception in Greene’s life can be seen in many instances throughout The Power and the Glory. The Power and the Glory is up to a point, arresting because of the story’s forceful, exaggerated presentations of an obsessed and imaginative personality are brought to life. Graham Greene died in Vevey, Switzerland in 1991.



Atkins, John. “Altogether Amen: A Reconsideration of the Power and the Glory.” 1963:181-187.

Burgess, Anthony. The Greene and the Red: “Politics in the novels of Grahan Greene.” 1968: 13-20.

D’Souza, Santhosh. “Graham Greene.” Discrete Logic Inc., 1998.

Greene, Graham. A Sort of Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1971.

Greene, Graham. The Power and the Glory. London: Punguin Books, 1940.

Greene, Graham. Ways of Escape. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980

Greene, Graham. A World of My Own. New York:Penguin Books,1992.

Hazzard, Shirley. Greene on Capri. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2000.

Hogart, Richard. “The Force of Carticature.” 1970: 42-43.

Kermode, Frank. “Mr. Greene’s Eggs and Crosses.” 1973: 126-137.

Liukkonen, Petri. “Graham Green (1904-1901).” Books and Writers, 2000.

Lodge, David. “Graham Greene.” 1966: 23-26.

Shelden, Michael. Graham Greene, The Enemy Within. New York: Random House, 1994.

Sherry, Norman. The Life of Graham Greene. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.