Thursday, April 23, 2009

Graham Greene on Love, Hate, and Piety

I decided I had better read Graham Greene's great novel, The Power and the Glory (1940; Penguin Classics reprint 2003), because my colleague, Sean Davidson, gets so excited working through it with his first year English students. Now I see why. Here are a few highlights . . .

On love:
'Oh,' the priest said, 'that's another thing altogether - God is love. I don't say the heart doesn't feel a taste of it, but what a taste. The smallest glass of love mixed with a pint pot of ditch-water. We wouldn't recognize that love. It might even look like hate. It would be enough to scare us - God's love. It set fire to a bush in the desert, didn't it, and smashed open graves and set the dead walking in the dark. Oh, a man like me would run a mile to get away if he felt that love around' (199-200).
On hate:
He couldn't see her in the darkness, but there were plenty of faces he could remember from the old days which fitted the voice. When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity - that was a quality God's image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination (131).
On piety:
He had always been worried by the fate of pious women. As much as politicians, they fed on illusion. He was frightened for them: they came to death so often in a state of invincible complacency, full of uncharity. It was one's duty, if one could, to rob them of their sentimental notions of what was good . . . (127).
One of the novel's main emphases, it seems to me, is the depravity of common piety.

1 comment:

patmccullough.com said...

This book is a contender for my favorite novel ever.