The novel is part fairy tale, part fantasy, part adventure, and part romance, but it is all these things only with a twist. The author is familiar with these genres and is determined to parody them. A parody is a spoof in which something— a style, a genre—is imitated only to make fun of it.
The fairy-tale element includes the beautiful girl who becomes a princess and marries a prince. Fantasy literature often includes events, creatures, and situations that could not happen in real life, such as the climbing of the Cliffs of Insanity, fighting giant snakes and rodents, and making the resurrection pill. The adventure story is all action, including the kind of fights and chases that take place in The Princess Bride. The presentation of Inigo as the greatest swordsman in the world is a nod toThe Three Musketeers(1844), the adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas that the fictional Goldman mentions reading as a boy in the . . . Read More
Queen Bella is King Lotharon’s wife and Prince Humperdinck’s stepmother. He calls her the evil stepmother, but actually she is sweet and considerate and much beloved in the kingdom.
Buttercup grows up on a farm and at the age of fifteen is potentially one of the most beautiful women in the world. However, she does not care about beauty or about the hired hand she calls Farm Boy who works on her family’s farm. When she is nearly seventeen she falls in love with the Farm Boy, Westley, and starts to take some trouble with her appearance. Within a few weeks she goes from being the twentieth most beautiful woman in the world to ninth, and is still rising. She is happy to wait while Westley makes his fortune in America and is devastated when she hears about Westley’s death at the hands of pirates. She vows never to love again. When Prince Humperdinck, seeking a beautiful bride, asks her . . . Read More
The Unfairness of Life
The reader might expect this fantasy romantic/ adventure novel to follow the usual pattern of such stories: good is always rewarded, evil perishes, and the good characters live happily ever after. But this is not entirely the case in The Princess Bride. The author is at pains to show that life is not fair, that it can be disappointing and not measure up to one’s hopes and dreams. In this sense he introduces a strong note of realism into the tale. The theme that life is not fair occurs both in the passages Goldman inserts where he comments on his own life and the ‘‘original’’ Morgenstern story, as well as in the tale itself. In the introduction, in which Goldman describes how he came to write the book, he explains that he once thought his life would follow the subtitle of the story and be all about ‘‘true love and high adventure,’’ but it did not happen. In particular, his fictional self admits that he is . . . Read More
The Princess Bride begins with an introduction in which Goldman explains the (fictional) origin of the book. At ten years old, William is lying in bed recuperating from pneumonia, and his immigrant father reads to him from a book called The Princess Bride, written by S. Morgenstern, a great author. Like Goldman’s father, Morgenstern came from a country called Florin. Young William is too sleepy to take much of it in, but the story sticks in his mind and for the first time in his life he becomes interested in a book. His father reads the entire book to him twice over a month. William then develops a keen interest in adventure stories of all kinds, to the surprise of Miss Roginski, his schoolteacher. Looking back as an adult, Goldman identifies this encounter with The Princess Bride to be the best thing that ever happened to him. While in California working on a screenplay, he arranges with a bookstore to deliver a copy of the The . . . Read More
Graham Greene has been called a theoretical or automatic writer, in that he uses the objective perspective, with his narrative point of view roaming around from one image to another and one scene to the next without much commentary. In The Power and the Glory, for example, he presents a man on the run from both the law and his own uneasy lack of connection to the world. The narration does not need to dig deeply into the man’s thoughts to establish what is awry in his view of the world, though. How can readers be shown that he ruminates about his existence without going into his thoughts? Simple—the man is a priest. And how do readers know that he is more than just a living embodiment of the spirituality that priests aspire to? Because he is often referred to as a ‘‘whiskey priest,’’ which shows his understanding of what the world thinks of him. Oh, and any doubt about his moral complexity can be settled by the fact that he has fathered a child after giving in to his . . . Read More
Graham Greene does not give names to several of the key characters in this novel. Readers never even find out the name of the book’s protagonist, who is identified only as ‘‘the priest’’ or ‘‘the whiskey priest.’’ To retain his anonymity, Greene must resort to such obvious omission as having him tell a man he runs into in the jungle his name, but only relating it in the book as ‘‘Father So-and-so.’’ Obviously, the priest has spoken his name in the story, but that information is withheld from the reader by the narrator.
Other key characters who do not have names are the lieutenant, the half-caste (who is also referred to sometimes by the alternate description ‘‘the mestizo’’), and the chief of police (the jefe). There are also named characters, such as Maria, Brigida, Luis, and Mr. Trent.
Identifying characters by descriptions rather than names serves to keep . . . Read More
This novel takes place in Tabasco, a state in Mexico, during the 1930s. Tabasco was the state where the most extreme ideas of the Mexican Revolution were implemented, where intense poverty caused a backlash against the social order that had oppressed the peasantry for more than a century.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Dı´az, ran a corrupt government that suppressed the rights of the poor and the middle class. In the election of 1910, Dı´az was announced the winner by an overwhelming majority, but his opponent, Francisco Madero, who was living in the United States, declared that the election was illegitimate and that he was the true president. The question over the election riled the population to armed revolt: followers of Madero, as well as revolutionaries following Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa, rose up against the government. Dı´az resigned as president in May of 1911, and after a brief rule by an interim . . . Read More
The priest in The Power and the Glory finds his plans for escape foiled on several occasions because he feels that it is his responsibility to perform certain functions. Several times, for instance, he is asked to put his flight on hold because people need him to stay with them and hear their confessions. According to Catholic doctrine, Jesus conferred upon his disciples the power to forgive sins that were committed after baptism under certain conditions, and the same power was passed on to all ordained priests. In the sacrament of penance, a sinner who says confession to a priest and performs the penance that the priest assigns can be absolved of her or his sins. The importance of having sins absolved through this sacrament is shown in the novel when the priest knowingly walks into a trap set by the police because he is required by his oath to hear the confession of the American gangster, James Carver, who has expressed the desire . . . Read More
Brigida is the whiskey priest’s child, born from his one night of drunken passion with Maria more than six years earlier. In his absence, she has grown to be steely and unsentimental, a child of poverty who seems to have no interest in religion. She has adult features, and her face and her cynicism haunt the priest throughout his escape.
Carver is an infamous American gangster who has escaped to Mexico to evade the law. He is often referred to in the novel as ‘‘the Gringo,’’ an ethnic slur Mexicans in this novel use to describe Americans. The same policemen who are charged with capturing the whiskey priest are after him, and their photos are hung side-by-side over the desk of the police lieutenant. The priest is captured when he hears that the gangster, who has held an innocent young child in front of him to shield himself from bullets, is dying and wants to say confession. When the . . . Read More
Chapter One of the first part of The Power and the Glory begins with Mr. Tench, a British dentist who is hoping to make enough money some day to go home. He strikes up a conversation with an educated stranger who he assumes is a doctor; this is the man referred to in the novel as the priest or the whiskey priest, who has come to the capital city to meet a man named Lopez, hoping that Lopez will be able to get him out of the country. They have a drink together, and Tench tells him that Lopez was shot the week before by the chief of police, who wanted Lopez’s girlfriend. A boy comes to Tench’s office and says that he needs help because his mother is sick, and Tench tells the priest to go, still thinking he is a doctor. The priest objects, but Tench tells him that the boat he wants to leave the country on will not leave for hours or days. Following the boy into the jungle, the priest prays that he will be caught soon.
Chapter Two follows the . . . Read More