The Whiskey Priest of Power and the Glory

Topics: Purity, Impurity, The Power and the Glory Pages: 13 (5319 words) Published: May 1, 2013
The Whiskey Priest – The Power and The Glory
The Power and the Glory, as already visible from its very title, relies heavily on the complex dialectics of pairs of dual terms which go beyond their apparent contradiction to offer complementary affiliations. The characters, especially the whisky priest, have a dilemma: they live and voice paradoxes and navigate between extremes, an example of which is the states of purity and impurity. Impurity is obviously perceptible in the dirty, infected and contaminated state of Tabasco characterized by putrefaction and corruption, be it material, physical, political, or religious. Theoretically, within the conflict between the political and the religious poles, both the lieutenant and the priest consider that they are endowed with a pure, perfect mission, but unfortunately, neither’s mission is absolutely “pure”. Those who are supposed to bring comfort to the world and eradicate imperfection are not pure and worthy themselves. The reader is constantly lead to wonder which of the two has a better ideal and who is more likely to win this competition for people’s salvation: a sinful priest or a morally good man with no religious faith? The two characters are both noble and flawed at the same time; they share the same virtues and goals, and they have their own vices. However, only the priest seems to undergo a sort of spiritual purification. The Power and the Glory could therefore be considered as a novel retracing the priest’s journey from an impure state of greed, ambition and pride to humility and understanding. The priest’s progress, despite all the religious resonances emanating even from the title, is contained in a perfectly entertaining format which incites the reader to follow the hero’s “labyrinthine ways”. 2The prevalent atmosphere of The Power and the Glory is characterized by dirty and decaying surroundings in a spiritually soiled and impure environment. The sordid universe proliferates with crawling insects and parasites, and dilapidated shabby houses, the façades of which peel off and show the mud beneath, give shelter to dejected people. The material decay is due to the coalition of elements (“the blazing sun” [1], “bleaching dust” [1] and torrential rains which dissolve the hard ground into mud) which seem to act together and disintegrate the whole state

of Tabasco. The running water emanates a “sour green smell” (104) and generates either material putrefaction or human diseases, while pure water is rare and available only in bottles. The godless government reigns over this sordid, sterile and moribund state. The crumbling of Tabasco is seen in images like theGeneral Obregon, the ship which is on the verge of sinking, in the busts of mildewed “expresident[s], ex-general[s], ex-human being[s]” (1), in the playground swings which now resemble gallows next to a ruined cathedral, and so on. 3The oppressing and repressive laws in the state of Tabasco go hand in hand with the sordidness of the place. As opposed to this situation, the relatively free world in Chiapas, where the Lehrs live, is characterized by cleanliness and the more tolerant attitude of the State towards the Church. In Tabasco, the more stiflingly and tyrannically the laws weigh on people, the more physical degradation seems to dominate the landscape, and physical decay (rotting teeth, dysentery, bodily fluids and smells) gnaws at the human beings from the inside. Diseases and putrefaction thus reflect the impurity of the political regime with its strict laws, prohibition, violence and corruption. 4The corruption of thepolitical and militarypower is visible in the attitudes of most of its representatives. There are numerous examples in the novel of the slovenliness of soldiers, their torpor, boredom and laziness and their involvement in illegal activities such as drinking. Ironically enough, it is this corrupted state which endeavours to fight the corruption of the Church which seems to have failed to fulfil...
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