Flawless Heros Essay, Research Paper
In today?s society, people often picture their heroes as flawless characters with superhuman strengths and powers, such as the Superman and Batman types. Others picture their heroes as ordinary individuals who have great talents, such as the Michael Jordan type. During ancient history, the Greeks recognized their tragic heroes as those who possessed four essential qualities: a man noble by birth and talent, possessing a tragic flaw, having a recognizable downfall that is partially his fault, and experiencing a punishment that exceeds his crime. In Graham Greene?s The Power and the Glory, the whiskey priest can be considered a tragic hero in the style of Greek literature and theater.
As a priest and a son of a shopkeeper, the whiskey priest exhibits nobility of birth in the sense of royalty. Because of his solid background of being “born in Carmen ? the son of a storekeeper”(22), he was considered one of the upper class. Furthermore, his parents provided him with a great education as “he spent six years at some American seminary”(22). While at the seminary, the whiskey priest gained the necessary knowledge and talents in managing a church, expressing power and authority, and obtaining an appreciation of life?s finer things. Many examples point out this quality needed for the Greek hero, such as in the hut with the Mestizo, when he valued the paper symbolizing his past power in the church. Again he remembered “a dinner given at Concepcion in honor of the tenth anniversary of his ordination”(92). The pious parishioners gathered around him as if he was their king. In the small village where Brigitta lived, “the children were coming up . . . to kiss his hand”(62) to show his nobility.
The whiskey priest meets the next qualification of the hero, the tragic flaw, when he committed the sin of despair and became the father of Brigitta. The priest actually has many flaws, and he fights internally with them throughout his journey. However, his greatest flaw was that “he had given way to despair”(60). This despair led to drinking, which the priest admits: “one day because I was drunk and lonely ? well, you know how it was, I got a child”(196). Brigitta had been this illegitimate child. Throughout the novel, comments are made of his drunkenness as when the beggar in the capital says to him, “Oh, anyone can tell a drinker”(107). The heart of despair and drunkenness might well be the sin of pride, for as he tells the lieutenant: “I thought I was so grand I could make my own rules”(196). The whiskey priest, though deeply flawed, qualifies as this novel?s tragic hero.
The whiskey priest ensures the third quality of a tragic hero by experiencing a downfall with a point of recognition. The whiskey priest?s point of recognition happens when the lieutenant has captured him, and he confesses to the lieutenant that ” pride was what made the angels fall. Pride?s the worst thing of all”(196). In his downfall, the priest faces the terrors and pain of becoming an outlaw: ” I wasn?t any use, but I stayed”(196). While he was alone in the jail cell the night before his execution, the whiskey priest confesses again, but this time to God. He tells God that “I have been drunk ? I don?t know how many times; there isn?t a duty I haven?t neglected”(208). The priest?s fall is complete, but within it there is the growing recognition of self-awareness that faces both his interior fears as well as his fear of being killed by the government forces.
The priest presents the last quality of the tragic hero, punishment exceeding the crime, when he was sentenced to death. The government, in an approach taken from Machiavelli?s book, The Prince, requires all teachers, religious orders, and those who believe in the old concepts to be killed. The government has provided one exception to this rule in “that all priests must marry”(25). The lieutenant came up with the idea to catch the priest by taking “a man from every village in the state as a hostage. If the villagers didn?t report the man when he came, the hostage would be shot ? and then we?d take another”(24). Thus, by the priest staying in the country, the people were persecuted, which in turn hindered his chances of survival. The priest?s followers despised him because he drank and, like Mrs. Fellows? comment: “I expect he deserves all he gets”(214), most people wanted him punished for not abiding by the laws of the church. They saw him as a disgrace, and most people did not want to help him survive.
In traditional Greek tragedies, which begin en media res (in the middle), there emerges a main character that is a tragic hero. Graham Greene?s novel, The Power and the Glory, falls along these guidelines too because the whiskey priest shows the characteristics of the Greek tragic hero in that he is noble by birth, possesses a tragic flaw, has a downfall, and ends with a punishment that exceeds his crime.
Graham greene the power and the glory