The Power and the Glory is considered by some to be the finest novel written by Graham Greene, author of Brighton Rock, The End of the Affair and both the novella and subsequent acclaimed screenplay for The Third Man. Published in 1940, the novel is now considered part of Greene’s “Catholic Trilogy” but is also representative of status as one of the premier masters of the political thriller.
The title under which the novel was originally published in the United States due to a conflict with an already existing book bearing the author’s choice is perhaps more appropriate considering its subject matter: The Labyrinthine Ways. Somewhat in the vein of many iconic Hitchcockian thrillers, The Power and the Glory is the tale of a fugitive on the run who is trying not only to evade police, but to elude his own dark conscience catching up with him. What makes this fugitive singularly different is that he is an alcoholic priest.
The ritual sacraments of Catholicism play a vital role in shaping the thriller aspects of the narrative as the disgraced priest attempting merely to work his way safely through the jungles of Mexico is the desperate desire for any priest in these desolate areas cut off from the main diocese to perform his duties and these duties often necessitate strict adherence to doctrine than is easier written down than actually carried out. The collision of a deeply flawed priest, a policeman committed to his own duty of bringing fugitive to justice and the dispossessed villagers who become a makeshift congregation allow Greene to explore complex issues related to the concept of sin and redemption set against a patina of starkly drawn class division and conflicts over the nature of justice. Added to the complexity of thematic attention to detail is period and setting in which the story takes place: the Mexican state of Tabasco where the ideals of the Mexican Revolution took deep root and place those who embraced the revolution at odds with the Catholic traditions of the past seen as contributing to the corruption and poverty of the region.
In 1941, The Power and the Glory was honored by winning the Hawthornden Prize, a prestigious British literary award. In 2005, the book was listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 greatest English-language novels of the past 75 years. A 1947 film adaptation starring Henry Fonda retitled the story The Fugitive while a highly acclaimed stage version premiered in 1956.