The Power and the Glory : Novel Summary: Part 2 – Chapter 4

The priest crosses the river and returns to the banana plantation where he met Captain Fellows and his daughter. He has had no food for two days. But the bungalow is deserted, except for a wounded dog. Most of the furniture has been removed. He goes into the house and examines what has been left, wondering whether the family moved because the wife was sick and they had to go to the capital where there is a hospital. In the kitchen the dog finds a bone with some meat on it. The hungry priest snatches it from him. He finds a book of poetry in one of the rooms and spends some time reading it. He then goes to explore the nearby huts but they are deserted too. He wonders if there has been an outbreak of disease that has forced the inhabitants to flee. He notices an Indian woman approaching the hut, but when he calls out to her, she runs away. From her actions he concludes that there must be something valuable in the hut. He finds a dying three-year-old boy who has been shot in three places. The woman comes into the hut, but can only say “Americano” in Spanish by way of explanation. He tells her to get water and explains that he is a priest. But the boy dies before anything can be done for him. The priest realizes that the Americano the woman mentions may be the gringo who is wanted by the police. He tells the woman they must bury the child, but she makes it clear to him that she wants the boy buried near a church. They are twenty miles from the border of another state, across the mountains, where there may be a church.
They set off, with only sugar to eat. The woman walks behind him with her dead child strapped to her back. They travel for two days and reach a plateau covered with short grass. There are many crosses in the ground, and these are the first Christian symbols the priest has seen publicly displayed for five years. The woman holds the child’s body against one of the crosses. She then sits down and will not move further. The priest continues on his way, leaving her behind. Then he feels guilty and returns, but there is no sign of the woman. She has gone home. The man continues for several hours across difficult terrain. Eventually he encounters a man with a gun. He tells the man he is a priest, and much to his surprise, the man welcomes him. A big whitewashed building looms up ahead, and the man says it is their church. The priest knows he has crossed into another state. He is so tired he falls asleep.
Coral, the girl the priest seeks, is a contrast to Brigida, his daughter. Whereas, Brigida rejected him, but Coral befriended him and promised to help him.
The incident in which the priest fights with a hungry dog for a bone is one of his lowest moments. It shows life stripped to its essentials—the struggle for food and survival, with man no better than a dog. (In fact, the dog comes out of this encounter rather better than the priest.)
The episode with the woman and the dead child illustrates again the hold that Catholicism has on the local people. The woman will not bury the child without holding it against something she regards as a holy object, even if it is only a simple cross in a field. This suggests that the lieutenant and the civil authorities that want to stamp out all traces of religion may have a much harder task on their hands than they suppose.