The Last Word (short story)

The Last Word (short story)

"The Last Word" is a short story by author Graham Greene, written in 1988 (see 1988 in literature). It first appeared in "The Independent" but can also be found in collections of his short fiction, notably the Penguin edition of "The Last Word and Other Stories", for which it is the lead story. The story, written toward the end of Greene's life, reflects his frustration at the declining influence of religion, particularly Catholicism, in the modern world.

Plot summary

The story revolves around the last pope, John XXIX, who was overthrown more than twenty years earlier with the establishment of a new world government under General Megrim. The pope is now a frail old man, who lives in obscurity under a moderate form of house arrest, ignored by his neighbors and forbidden to keep any religious items. All he has left is a book, possibly a Bible, that he has managed to hide, and a crucifix with an arm broken off. He is already feeble-minded and has forgotten most of his past, and the world has forgotten him as well--when the concierge at a hotel is told that he is the pope, he answers, "The Pope? What's the Pope?"

When the Pope was toppled, there was an attempt to assassinate him, but this failed, and it was since decided not to make him a martyr to the few surviving Christians. Since then, Christianity has been eradicated, and the pope is now the last surviving Christian.

In the story, the Pope is flown for a formal meeting with the General, the new leader of the new world order. After many long years, it is a formal meeting, much publicized in the world press. The pope's robes and even his papal ring are restored to him from the World Museum of Myths, and he is forced to don them for the occasion, faintly remembering earlier days when they were his normal attire. At 11:30 am sharp, he is taken to meet the general, who reminds him that he is "The last Pope, but still a Pope," and therefore still a threat. The general places a gun on the table and offers him an opportunity to die with dignity, "The last Christian. This is a moment of history." After many long years of isolation, this is a relief to the Pope. The two men share a glass of wine before the execution is to take place. His last words, before he is shot, are "Corpus domini nostri" ...

Greene ends the story by reflecting on the General's concern that Christianity may be abandoned and its last believers persecuted, but that somehow the faith will survive. Even after performing the execution himself, the General is plagued by the doubt, " it possible that what this man believed may be true?" Even religion's greatest enemies, Greene is saying, still live with the question of what if they are wrong, and as long as the slightest doubt remains, Christianity will survive. Even though he is frustrated by the modern world's skepticism, he believes that that very skepticism may yet be what keeps Christianity alive.


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Last Word — may refer to:* The Last Word (short story), a short story by Graham Greene * The Last Word (2008 film), a film starring Winona Ryder * The Last Word (game show), a Canadian/American game show * The Last Word (1995 film), a film starring Timothy… …   Wikipedia

  • The Last Wish (book) — The Last Wish   Cover of the American edition of The L …   Wikipedia

  • The Last Dangerous Visions — was planned to be a sequel to the science fiction short story anthologies Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions , originally published in 1967 and 1972 respectively. It is edited by Harlan Ellison. The projected third collection was… …   Wikipedia

  • short story — short story, adj. a piece of prose fiction, usually under 10,000 words. [1885 90] * * * Brief fictional prose narrative. It usually presents a single significant episode or scene involving a limited number of characters. The form encourages… …   Universalium

  • The Last Vampire — Series is a 6 book set written by Christopher Pike and chronicles the 5,000 year life of the last vampire , Sita. The Last Vampire The book opens with a brief narration. A young woman, who appears to be in her late teens named Alisa Perne, is not …   Wikipedia

  • The L Word — infobox Television show name = The L Word caption = The L Word title logo format = Drama runtime = approx. 50 mins per episode creator = Michele Abbot Ilene Chaiken Kathy Greenberg starring = Jennifer Beals Erin Daniels (2004–2006) Pam Grier… …   Wikipedia

  • The Last Unicorn — Infobox Book name = The Last Unicorn title orig = translator = image caption = Dust jacket for the first edition of The Last Unicorn author = Peter S. Beagle illustrator = cover artist = country = United States language = English series = genre …   Wikipedia

  • The Last of the Mohicans — This article is about the novel. For the film starring Daniel Day Lewis, see The Last of the Mohicans (1992 film). For other uses, see The Last of the Mohicans (disambiguation). The Last of the Mohicans &# …   Wikipedia

  • The Spectacles (short story) — Infobox short story | name = The Spectacles title orig = translator = author = Edgar Allan Poe country = flagicon|USA United States language = English series = genre = Comedy short story published in = Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper publisher =… …   Wikipedia

  • The Last Time I Saw Maris — Infobox Television episode | Title = The Last Time I Saw Maris Series = Frasier Season = 3 Episode = 08 Caption = Niles is considering wearing jeans, growing a goatee and joining a gym Airdate = 28 November 1995 Production = 40571 057 Writer =… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”