Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Sudha, S, II BA English - Assignment in Modern Fiction

Discuss any two themes that you find in the Novel 'The Power and the Glory"

Submitted by: Sudha, M, II BA English

The Dangers of Excessive Idealism:

To put it simply, an idealist is one who imagines that the world can be a much better place than it is. What could be dangerous about that? The lieutenant, in many ways, illustrates the danger. Obsessed with the way things could be, he remains mired in dissatisfaction and bitterness about the way things actually are. Although the wish to help the poor is a noble sentiment, dreams of "starting over", erasing history, and wiping out all religious belief are simply not realizable. Moreover, being unable to bring about the impossible leads the lieutenant to feelings of frustration and anger, an even more keen awareness of how imperfect the world is, and hatred for those people whom he views as obstacles to the realization of his dream. Moreover, his conviction that he knows what is best for the people is itself a form of arrogance. The priest, on the other hand, comes to accept suffering and death as a part of life; that is not to say that he does not wish to help alleviate suffering, but his faith in the next world helps him to accept the trials and hardships of this one.

The Disparity Between Representation and Reality:

Greene is interested in showing the gap between life as it is remembered, recorded or retold, and life as it is lived. Acts of storytelling occur quite frequently throughout the novel. The most obvious example is the story of Juan, the young martyr. One thing that becomes apparent by the novel's close is how very different Juan's story of martyrdom is from the priest's. Juan's life is characterized from start to finish by composure, loyalty and, above all, unshakeable faith. Although the priest certainly is an admirable figure, especially by the time of the novel's close, he still faces death afraid and unable to repent. But Greene is not juxtaposing the two accounts of martyrdom merely to highlight the priest's shortcomings, but rather to show that real-life differs from idealistic stories, in most cases. This theme extends beyond storytelling to other forms of representation. For example, the priest takes note of how little the gringo looks like his picture on the wanted poster in the police office, and the lieutenant fails to recognize the priest because the priest does not have the delicate hands that a stereotypical priest would have. Stories, pictures and other kinds of representation can give a misleading, exaggerated picture of a person, and Greene is interested in writing about reality as it is truly experienced, even if he himself is attempting to create that sense of unvarnished reality through his own storytelling.

More HERE (till the sub title CHILDREN)

The Spiritual Transformation of a sinner into a martyr and a saint:

The novels of Greene show his preoccupation with the theme of evil. In the present novel the theme of evil is worked out largely through the portrayal of the whisky priest, a portrayal which not only pertains to his outward actions but also includes a probe into his inmost thoughts. There is a certain element of evil or sinfulness in the nature of this priest, which tends to thwart his nobler side but cannot overcome it.

Greene has given a new turn to the Christian novel in England. Instead of depicting the quest of a good man for virtue or for the heavenly city of God, he depicts the quest of a sinner who tumbles along the way to the heavenly city, almost forsaking God sees potential salvation, that in apparent worldly success, God sees weakness, that is satanical pride, God sees the capacity for humility, that in indecision and denial God sees the possibility of faith. According to Greene, only indifference can destroy God. Thus, in several ways, Greene has turned the traditional view upside measures its strength. He asks, among other things what God can mean in a world that seems largely made up of evil, and who will prove stronger in the battle for man's mind - God or devil. He suggests paradoxically that, in searching out for the devil, a man may well find God; and conversely, in searching out for God, one may well find God, and one may indeed find devil. While the church may demand conformity to fixed dogmas, God operates mysteriously and apart, if necessary, from the church's dogma.

The whisky-priest is the last priest in the state, his fellow priests having been outlawed, killed, or forced to marry, by a local dictator. He can try to escape or he can live a married life which will then reveal the absurdity and hollowness of his former vocation. He can thus either save his soul or save his body. He reluctantly stays on, but he constantly reminds himself that he is not worthy of the role of a martyr. If Christ is his ideal, he sadly fails to live up to this high conception because he drinks to excess, has begotten an illegitimate child, and is not even sure that he can practise his profession when fear overtakes him. But according to Greene he is a sinner ready to achieve Sainthood. Full of pride, the whisky-priest, like a hero in a Greek tragedy is partially ennobled through doubt, suffering and self-realization. At every point he is made aware of the depths to which he has fallen, aware that the devil has indeed entered his body and driven out God; denial is, indeed, the first step towards acceptance. In short this sinner not only proves to be a true martyr but seems to qualify to some extent even for the status of a saint.

At various stages in the course of the novel, Greene emphasizes the priest's awareness of his own sinfulness. On his way to Maria's village, for instance, the priest meditates upon his past life.... paradox is resolved.

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