Summary and Analysis
The final chapter of The Power and the Glory offers us a direct, last look at most of the supporting characters in the — in stark contrast to the third-hand, briefly noted look at the main character, the priest, when he is executed (a scene narrated by Mr. Tench).
In this final chapter, Captain Fellows and Trix try to avoid the subject of their daughter's death and decide to leave her remains in Mexico and build a new life for themselves back home. Tench, meanwhile, has traveled to the capital city to treat the jefe's tooth, which has been neglected for months, and he explains to the Chief of Police that his wife (Sylvia) has written him, asking for a divorce. Tench is made physically ill by the priests execution, and abstractedly, he delays filling the tooth as the officer waits in pain. Later in the chapter, young Luis, appalled that the lieutenant has killed a true "hero," spits on the butt of the policeman's revolver. Significantly, it is Luis who, with great caution, admits the new priest at the conclusion of the novel.
Greene's central point in this final chapter is this: life goes on, some things do change, and people who are dynamic enough, those who have a strong life instinct, can throw off their inhibitions and come to a greater understanding of the most important values in life.
For the Fellowses, for the jefe, and for Luis' mother, there is no hope, but for Tench and Luis, there is a slight flicker of hope. Significantly, as noted, the last events of the novel are not seen through the priest's eyes. The story focuses, instead, on the so-called minor characters in the novel because they are the ones who had a chance to be affected by the priest's presence and because they must still play out their roles on life's chessboard now that the priest is dead.
Mrs. Fellows is helpless, despite the letter from Norah, holding a false promise of new life. We see her covering her eyes from reality, calling for more eau-de-Cologne and trying to say nothing about Coral's death while chastising her husband, who keeps inadvertently alluding to it. Greene underlines her ignorance by having her comment on the priest's execution, 'There are so many priests."
The irony here is that there are not "so many priests"; this priest is "the last active priest." And another irony is this: if the priest's words did not affect Mrs. Fellows' destiny, they did influence Coral. According to Captain Fellows, Coral talked at great length — "as if he'd told her things." Now that Coral is gone, however, Mr. and Mrs. Fellows' sense of desertion is not sufficiently strong to compel an investigation of just what the priest may have said. Although the two people realize that "somehow nothing is ever in its place," they are too shallow to perceive the ramifications of such a potentially profound concept.
Tench's lack of insight is not as complete. Although his vision is hampered by "spots" — caused, he maintains, by indigestion, the "veil" which he sees through does not block off his sight (or insight) entirely, as does the handkerchief (symbolically) over Mrs. Fellows' eyes and forehead. Tench's wife's letter arouses little emotion, but he does feel great empathy for the priest who is about to be executed. In fact, Greene gives the somewhat revitalized dentist a last look at the priest. Tench feels that the priest's execution is "like seeing a neighbor shot," and he recalls how the two men had once spoken a common language, English. Tench's sense of desertion is valid.
The figure of Tench overshadows that of the jefe, who is still complaining of his sore tooth, which apparently became infected around the time that news of the priest's existence first became known. In addition, the paragraphs centering on Tench complete the animal imagery of the novel. Greene's allusion to an 'arena" oddly parallels the saintly young Juan's fate with that of the priest. Greene writes, "There was the bull dead, and there was nothing more to wait for any longer."
Young Juan's story is finished, simultaneously with the death of the priest, who differs from the lachrymose plaster saint in so many ways. Young Juan's story ends with a "heroic flurry"; in contrast, the priest is unable to walk to his death unaided, although significantly, he tries "his best." In the young Juan story, the Chief of Police is visibly moved; Tench's patient, the jefe, does not even care enough to witness the execution.
Finally, it is Luis who becomes the agent who receives the new priest, a means by which Rome can continue her ministry. And by spitting on the lieutenant's revolver butt, Luis clearly rejects both the totalitarian state and violence as a means to an
end. He now knows that he is the only man in the house, and so, while his mother sleeps, he lets in the new priest, a tall, pale, thin man with a "sour mouth" and the now familiar "small suitcase."