When describing the preacher, John says, "His name is Harry Powell. But the names of his fingers are E and V and O and L and E and T and A and H and that story he tells about one hand being Hate and the other hand being Love is a lie because they are both hate and to watch them moving scares me worse than shadows, worse than the wind."
This description shows the absolute essence of the preacher's character in Davis Grubb's The Night of the Hunter. The preacher's real intentions are the hate of the left hand, and he rationalizes his evil through the false facade of the love of the right hand. Even though he may appear good and holy to some people, throughout the novel, he still has evil motives towards virtually everyone.
In one of the preacher's dreams while he is in prison, he recalls an incident in which he rationalized an evil act by claiming it was God's will. After being solicited by a prostitute in Charleston, West Virginia, with the intention of killing her because of her "unholy" vocation, he takes her up to a room to murder her. Just as he is about to whip out the switchblade and fulfill his holy mission, he suddenly hears "God's" voice telling him not to bother because "there were too many of them." At the moment when this revelation takes place, the woman of the night sees the preacher in the midst of taking out the knife, and she screams. The shouting brings a Negro servant, and the preacher is forced to kill both the servant and prostitute. In Powell's sick and twisted mind, God had merely changed His mind when Preacher's life was in danger. There is a contradiction in "God's words" and clearly the preacher is merely using his "conversations" to aid in his own egotistical self-interest.
The fact that Preacher lies to most people that he meets is a way in which he puts up the holy act to mask his evil soul. He is an expert in sandwiching lies between truths, weaving them in a tangled and...