Friday, July 07, 2006

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 7 & 8

NEXT DEADLINE: One week from Monday - two more chapters.

Discussion Points

1) Chapter 7 of Thursday seems a little drawn out at first read. But something occurred to me during this section that I had temporarily forgotten in my analysis of the work: this story is supposedly an allegory. Now, that's not to say that every system will have a one-to-one meaning; but, nonetheless, the "symbolism" of this chapter is intriguing if you're looking for allegorical interpretation. Syme is being pursued through a thickening snowstorm which obscures his sight by a German Nihilist named "de Worms" and finally comes to confront his feared pursuer under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. Hrmmm...

I would also like to note that I made several literary associations while reading this chapter. I was reminded almost immediately of a passage in C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy from the second book, Perelandra. In the book, Doctor Ransom (the protagonist) is pursued by a demon-inhabited man whose physical description and lame gait bear a striking resemblance to Professor de Worms. This passage in Lewis is itself rather similar to Tolkien's description of Gandalf's battle with the Balrog (fire-demon) of Morgoth in Kazaad-dum in The Lord of the Rings. Both these works come after Thursday. The scene also reminds one of an earlier piece of literature, however: "The Hound of Heaven" - a poem by Francis Thompson. Thompson, incidentally, died the year Thursday was published. Chesterton was certainly aware of him, and, if my memory serves, was an admirer of his. It would be interesting to research as to what month in 1907 Thompson died, and what month Chesterton finished writing this book...

Anyway: general comments on this chapter, and its potential symbolism, would be appreciated.

2) A purely literary note about Chapter 7: it struck me at first that Chesterton wrote "dialectically" for the character Gogol. The tactic seemed a little out of place given Chesterton's style. Gogol's being a spy helped to make sense of why this point was accented - pun intended. Thoughts?

3) Chapter 8 is my favorite so far. I laughed aloud through "the imposter's" entire description of how he came to be the famous German Nihilist. Re-reading still provides me with plenty chuckles - particularly as a philosophy student.

4) This chapter is full of Chestertonian tangents - little philosophical points subtly (or not so subtly) inserted into his narrative. I will draw attention to two particularly. But please do try to find more and point them out for the rest of us. The first is rather blatant, the second more suave.
Through all this ordeal [Syme's] root horror had been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.
Brilliant. And so completely Chesterton. I love the gratuitous swipe at empiricism, too.
I understood that he had proved that the destructive principle in the universe was God; hence he insisted on the need for a furious and incessant energy, rending all things in pieces. Energy, he said, was the All. He was lame, shortsighted, and partially paralytic.
This one is a little harder to catch. I ran swiftly by it my first read. But there is a great irony here: a feeble, almost motionless nihilist inisting on the need for a furious and incessant energy. Which reminds me that I need to blog again about Stephen Hawking... but that will be later.

Happy reading!

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Anonymous Chris L said...

I wanted to start by saying that I also saw the similarities between Syme being chased by De Worms and Ransom being chased by a demon-inhabited man.

Some ideas that Chesterton brings out that I found particular interesting was the idea of fighting what you fear. Syme talks about fighting Sunday because he fears him. Syme goes on ask "Who would stoop to be fearless?" This is an interesting concept. It also explains Syme decision to stop running and turn and face De Worms. I was also struck by that the fact that he stops just after looking at the cross. He gains his strength to fight what he fears from the cross. On a similar note I liked De Worms comment about being brave because he is willing to try what he knows is impossible.

I also greatly enjoyed the De Worms imposter’s explanation of how he became De Worms. I could not help but imagine someone doing the same thing to Dr. Lowery (for none Saint Charles readers, he is one of our Philosophy professors and is quite a character).

I agree that Syme real horror has come from isolation. This is reflected in the chase seen. He is running from De Worms and it is cold dark and snowy. But as he leaves the pub and sets out to fight against Sunday a much more sinister enemy then De Worms it the snow has stopped and light begins to break through the gloom, because now he has an ally.

God Bless

7/8/06, 10:14 PM  
Blogger Friguy said...

The symbology of Syme eyeing the cross atop St. Paul's is unmistakable. Syme is said to wait for De Worms "as St. George waited for the dragon." St. George is the patron saint of England (and the Boy Scouts), and his legendary tale of ghoul-slaying adds a marked color to the imagery of Syme's brashness.

What's with De Worms' fettish for milk? As a Brit, I could understand if it was hot tea. But warm milk?

Gogol's accentuated accent is certainly understood more purposefully at the end of chapter the seventh. I thought it was worthwhile simply for its humour value, but, as a plot tactic, it is all the more delectable.

I had to relish several times in the line about monogomy, highlighted by Joey G. I was also struck in chapter the eighth by this paragraph:

"Syme had for a flash the sensation that the cosmos had turned exactly upside down, that all trees were groing downwards and that all stars were under his feet . . . He knew simultaneously that he was a fool and a free man. For with any recovery from morbidity there must go a certain healthy humiliation."

Truly, a curious notion.

The plot is ever thickening. I am enjoying the read in wonder of how it will be resolved (if it will be resolved--and I think it will).

I'd appreciate the insights of those who have read beyond the group, with care, of course, not to reveal too much. Take care, all.

7/11/06, 9:29 PM  

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