Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 5 & 6

Introductory Remarks

You're a bunch of lazy bums. And you know who you are.

I understand, it might be writer's block or something. I recommend listening to Vladimir Horowitz. That's what helps me, anyway...

Next deadline: 2 more chapters (7 & 8) in 10 days.

Discussion Points - Chapters 5 & 6

1) Not much to really say about Chapter Five. Comment freely, as you will. I find the character of Sunday to be particularly interesting.

2) Given the events in Chapter Six, what do you make of Sunday's staring at Syme throughout the conversation on the balcony?

That's really about it from me. These two chapters seemed to have been majorly concerned with moving the plot along. They weren't very "heady" from my perspective, but I'm open to any suggestions from the group. If anyone besides Dave decides to come out of hibernation, that is...

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Blogger Friguy said...

I agree with our ringleader that Chapter 5 is thin. That's sad, because it has the best title so far, I believe.

Chapter 5 does, though, herald the introduction of the amusing Gogol, whose character grows in interest at the next chapter's end. I find Chesterton's phonetic expression of Pol-a-rized English quite entertaining, especially when expressed aloud. It reminds me of daily Mass at the Shrine of Czestochowa here in D'town. Try it. Oh, come on--go upstairs, sit by yourself, and give it a try. You'll laugh at least at the effort, if not the character.

Regarding the eye contact of Sunday, I don't have much to say, but I will offer that it seems a contrast to Saturday. The last paragraph in Chapter 5 describes Saturday's "dark, almost opaque spectacles" and suggests that "his eyes might be covered up because they were too frightful to see." Saturday's eyes are too frightful to be seen; are those of Sunday so unworthy of fright that Syme feels soaked up by their trance?

I protest Chesterton's opening thought in Chapter 6. If a man goes to the west end of the world, he will encounter nothing different, but exactly the same thing as a man who goes to the east end of the world: the antipode of their mutual starting point. Their journey would be quite different, but the discovery would be the same. Not an important point, to be sure, but one that stuck.

I was naturally intrigued by the lengthy imagery surrounding a barrel organ. I was trying to make something of it all, but I see nothing there but poetic description. He describes the "jingling" music, full of "vivacity ... vulgarity ... and valour". Neat use of three disparate, meaningful, and alliterative modifiers.

The scene of Chapter 6 has Syme looking down from a balcony at a policeman on the sidewalk. In this portrait, the limit of Syme's honor is again tested, as discussed in previous comments. I'm still giving Chesterton credit for a successful conceit. I believe such integrity is possible. Others probably disagree. Maybe I'm hopeful, idealistic, or just traditional. But, as Fr. Groeschel said at the EWTN 25th Anniversary Mass downtown this morning, "You can't be Catholic and not be traditional."

I must marvel at the author's ability to capture a universally experienced, physical condition. He describes an apprehensive Syme thusly: "outwardly calm, but with all his brain and body throbbing with romantic rhythm." I think that's an impressive sketch of a common human experience. Later, in his relief, Syme is described as having "sunk down into his seat shuddering, in a palsy of passionate relief." Chesterton doesn't often use "big words," but he sure knows how to arrange "small" ones.

More fun to come. Won't the rest of you come out to play?

6/25/06, 9:18 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

It's late, so I'll be short.

But I must say I found Chesterton's comment about "travelling west" much more interesting, from a fantasy-literature-fan perspective. Keep in mind that Chesterton does begin the example by saying it was reminiscent of "old fairy stories" or something to that effect.

I had mentioned something about Chesterton's fantasy-lit. views in the last section, and never got around to expounding on it. I promise to do so at the earliest opportunity.

6/25/06, 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Chris L said...

Sorry I never got around to commenting on the last section. But I have been busy, and I finally have a job, not a good but it is a job.

I greatly enjoyed Chesterton’s descriptions of the members of the Anarchist Council. He talks about these men who seem so strange but in small almost impermeable ways. He mentions at the start of Chapter 6 that Syme "saw for an instant that these notions were subjective, that he was only looking at ordinary men". I think we have all been struck at some point in our life by some thing that seems so ordinary but at the same time so completely strange.

I personally liked Chesterton thought about going to ends of the world and seeing things that aren't wholly themselves. This seems to be a common idea in mythology, and embedded in the nature of man. It was gives us a sense of the exotic, we expect to go to the other side of world and see something completely different. It is when we get there and we don't that we are confused or bewildered. The site of a McDonald’s restaurant in Asia frequented by teens listening to American music wearing the same clothes we wear here, is somewhat unnerving because we expect the ends of the earth to be different.

As for Sunday staring at Syme, it gave me the strange impression that he somehow knows that Syme does not belong, or at least suspects it. And the whole dramatic revelation that Gogol is not was he seems was done to test, or to simple frighten Syme.

There were a few other things in this section I found interesting like the idea that "Many moderns, inured to a weak worship of intellect and force, might have wavered in their allegiance under this oppression of a great personality." It just one of the Chestertonian observation that are very keen and extremely true. Maybe it just the history buff in me that immediately thought of the countless times in history that great personalities have gained power of the masses.

Another thing I found interesting was the idea of the human mind as a bomb. That the human mind must constantly expand. It seems to be a truthful statement, were always seeking to know more, to understand more. But the Secretary takes to far when he suggests that this desire to expand the ones mind makes it destructive, or explosive. He says it must expand, even if it breaks up the universe. But it is exactly the opposite. The more our intellect expands the more in union with creation we are.

Anyway I hope some of my ramblings were interesting. At least I contributed.


7/1/06, 7:31 PM  
Blogger Joey G. said...

As promised, I'm going to speak a bit about the whole fantasy thing in Chesterton to see if it sparks any interest from some people. One of Chris's comments serves as a good starting point.

I had mentioned that at the end of the previous section, Chesterton seemed to outline a bit his "philosophy" of fantasy. Chris mentions that in this segment, Syme "saw for an instant that these notions were subjective, that he was only looking at ordinary men." There's something remarkably similar here to Chesterton's earlier assertion that "The dragon without St. George would not even be grotesque."

Chesterton - and his successors in tradition, namely Barfield, Tolkien, and Lewis - believed that myth and "fairy tale" have much more to do with truth than with fable. Chesterton regularly referred to himself as an inhabitant of fairy-land. He saw the world with mythopoeic eyes. It was this vision that allowed him to be daily astonished that the grass was green, instead of some other color.

The idea that something unexpected would meet us if we travelled to the extreme places of the world was not unique to Chesterton, and I don't think that it can be refuted simply by geographical fact. Lewis has Reepicheep travel to the world's end in Narnia. The elves journey to the shores of Valinor in The Lord of the Rings, and we know from Tolkien's other writings that an even more mystical place lies further West. To Britains, West was the location of the lost island of Atlantis, of legend. Perhaps on a small island out in the Atlantic, Arthur and his Knights went to spend their final days.

Is it all hogwash? In India they just discovered a rodent that had been presumed extinct for millions of years. The strangest part is that they haven't found just one, but evidence that the creature has been flourishing: right under our noses, so to speak. If one million flights accross the Atlantic take Americans to Europe, isn't there still a chance that one might lead elsewhere? What about the Bermuda triangle?

Anyway, I think Chesterton's allusions in brief passages like this have a deeper root that is fleshed out in some of his other essays and writings, and certainly his poetry. The passages are among my favorite so far because they give a glimpse of his mythopoeic vision. It's the vision of the Inklings, the same sort of idea as discussed before about daisies: that mere recurrance, even ad infinitum, doesn't make something any less "amazing." An exception, when it occurs, would be seen by these men as matter-of-fact. If a new star appears where there wasn't one before, they'd say, puffing their pipes, "well, there was room for one there, wasn't there?"

As a follow-up, on the regular blog, I'm going to post a brief poem by Chesterton that has the sort of "vision" I'm talking about. I fear I've done a bad job explaining it, but as I said, if it at least sparks some interest in anyone to look further into it, I'll feel vindicated.

7/4/06, 11:37 AM  

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