Friday, August 04, 2006

The Man Who Was Thursday - Chap. 15

Introductory Remarks

Well, we've finished. It's been a worthwhile endeavor, I should hope. I've certainly found the reading of this novel to be an enriching experience. Please limit the discussion in this post (as much as possible) to thoughts of a more specific nature. I will post one final discussion, a sort of "round-up" where we can maybe make some more general observations about the novel. Of course, I realize that to discuss the final chapter, we must discuss it in light of the previous fourteen. However, if you wish to make some sort of inference about how we might apply the message of Thursday in our modern world, or something like that, that would be better saved for the round-up. Thanks.


It would be too obvious to discuss the costumes of each man, although plenty of discussion might take place on that topic alone. Reading these final three chapters has made me hunger to see Thursday made into a film, with all of the modern technology that could really bring such a thing to life on the big screen. These costumes would be something else to see in color.

This chapter smacks of both Job and Revelation. The various creatures represented by the costumed guests before the dias could very easily be the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. And later, when Gregory comes back as an "accuser," who could help but think of how Job begins: with the "sons of God" all gathered around, and Satan coming among them to present his "accusation" against the good soul Job.

The allegory is pretty explicitly revealed in this scene. Chesterton doesn't beat about the bush. Sunday tells us, point blank, that he is the Sabbath - the peace of God. And each of the six days of creation reveal their paradoxical variance with this peace. Finally, Gregory steps forward and sums up the whole matter of theodicy from the perspective of a disillusioned man: "The unpardonable sin of the supreme power is that it is supreme. Oh, I could forgive you everything, you that rule all mankind, if I could feel for once that you had suffered for one hour a real agony such as I -"

And then Chesterton springs his answer. And what a brilliant concept!
Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the dreadful Council of the Days. So that each thing that obeys law may have the glory and isolation of the anarchist. So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter. So that the real lie of Satan may be flung back in the face of this blasphemer, so that by tears and torture we may earn the right to say to this man, 'You lie!' No agonies can be too great to buy the right to say to this accuser, 'We also have suffered.'
One might continue Syme's monologue if he wished: So thus every lamppost may be as rebelliously orderly as the tree. So thus every railway may be as vagrantly destined as the river. It all comes back to that central concept of Chestertonian wonder. Creation is so wonderful not because it must be what it is - but that it might be anything other than what it actually ends up being. The grass might have tragically ended up purple or red or whatever else, because disorder has been introduced into the way of things. But it is green, and we should sing a Te Deum every morning that it continues to be so.

And then Syme turns to Sunday, and asks that marvelous question, and Chesterton, without waste of words, gives us that brilliant answer. I must admit, my heart swelled at the poetic way in which Chesterton handled the final loose end of the "theodicy" debate. The whole book might be seen as a Job, yes, except that one small paragraph, in which Chesterton catches the New Testament aspect of the issue.

Chesterton ends the novel, amusingly, with a bit of a "romantic" twist. And I think this is fitting. Because the allegorical answers that he has provided in Gabriel Syme's answer find application in an everyday question, as well. We might overlook this application. But GK's reference to "the great unconscious gravity of a girl" brings to mind a mystery that is almost as troubling to us men as is the question of theodicy. And the answer is linked, I think. Love is "passion" - it is, in a sense, "suffered." Chesterton has pointed out the Godliness of this "suffering love" and used it to answer the mysteries of our relationship with God. He hints that it might be as helpful a key to understanding our relationships with those other mysterious beings...

One final note, before I close my observations on this chapter (and I do look forward to the final "wrap-up" where we can really wax philosophical). I find, in the end, the name of Gabriel to have been very appropriate. I have not often venerated the Saint, Gabriel the Archangel. But it occured to me, reading this book, how awesome it must have been to be the first created being to carry the Good News. Before Mary's fiat, before even John the Baptist, Gabriel was informed of God's wonderfully mysterious plan to finally, ultimately "justify" His ways to man and reconcile man to Himself. Since Gabriel's had the longest time to contemplate it, maybe he can help me when I get confused about some of the finer details.

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Anonymous Chris L said...

I will save most of my comments for the final wrap. I also longed to see Thursday made in to a film, this final chapter would make an amazing end to film.

It may just be becuase I am reading on of Dostoevsky's books now, but this seen also brought to mind the Grand Inquistor scene for the Brother's Karamozov and the discousion of Theodicy between Ivan and Alyosha. This was brought to my mind manely becuase Alyosha presents the same solution, that all our suffering is nothing compared to that of Christ, in a similiarly straight forward fashion at the end of their argument.

Not sure what else to say here so I will save the rest of my thoughts on this amazing novel for the wrap up session.

Chris L

8/5/06, 1:49 PM  

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