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Chapter 2

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter 2

Postby The Bigsleep J » 19 Jan 2006, 07:59

At the end of the last chapter Syme and Gregory climbed into a cab heading for a mysterious destination which turned out to be a 'dreary and greasy beershop'. Despite its looks they found themselves able to order expensive meals and expensive drinks. While they were eating their table revolved to reveal a secret passage and lift that took them downward.

Down below Gregory knocks on a large steel door and says the name "Joseph Chamberlain", which was the password. Inside the special room were many bombs and guns, and this is where Gregory begins to tell Syme about Sunday.

Gregory was looking for an excellent disguise but could not find one. He tried a bishop, a millionaire and a general, but each time was caught out. Sunday suggested that Gregory disguise himself as an Anarchist, the only disguise that seemed to work. Gregory then finally says that this very night he is going to get elected into the position of Thursday in the Central Anarchist council.

The chapter ends with Syme tricking Gregory into a similar promise as he did at the end of the first chapter, and Syme finally revealing he is a policeman. As he breaks this news the other anarchist start down the passage towards them.


And now some disorganized thoughts on the chapter.

There is some irony in this chapter, mostly because of how highly organized and elaborate efforts of the Anarchists are to keep spies out. And yet Syme infiltrated them in no time.

I certainly understood from them that bishops are strange and terrible old men keeping a cruel secret from mankind. I was misinformed. When on my first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing‑room I cried out in a voice of thunder, ‘Down! down! presumptuous human reason!’ they found out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once.


(Spoiler for different story, the Blue Cross)
Gregory's annecdote about being caught out as a bishop-imposter turns on a similar idea essential to the Father Brown story "The Blue Cross". In that story Father Brown figured out the priest traveling with him was an imposter because he attacked reason. Father Brown remarks that it is "bad theology". In a sense all of Gregory's anacedote is Chesterton satirizing of assumptions some anarchists (or cynical atheists) makes about priests, pastors and such; that none of them believe in God and that they just want to control people and they encourage people not to think. There are off course cases of these but I can only hope they are few. (spoiler-end)

Sunday's idea of an anarchist disguising himself of an anarchist is an interesting idea and also a typical Chesterton paradox. Most people would think it makes no sense but actually there is truth in it. Someone once pointed out that a person who repeatedly says he's going to kill himself might not commit it at all because he's possibly doing it just for the attention. I think that Gregory just wanted the authorities to think he's out to get attention. Off course his ruse did not work, not like it would probably in real life and Scotland yard found out.

(Spoiler)
Off course it is possible that Sunday may have planned that Syme should fill the position of Thursday rather than Gregory, who was a real anarchist. Could this have been some kind of manipulation or pre-ordination? Just thinking aloud. :) (spoiler end)

I read somewhere (I wish I could remember where - just to verify it!) that Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary, read Chesterton's "Thursday" and decided to employ a similar tactic to that of Gregory. To avoid the police he would travel at day instead of night (when he figured more people would be looking for him) in normal clothes, sometimes walking right past the police who were looking for him. Collins was originally inspired to revolt against the British after reading "The Napoleon of Nottinghill".

Historical Notes:
Joseph Chamberlain was a statesman during the turn of the century. He helped engineer and supported the Anglo-Boer war (a conflict which Chesterton opposed) but which was supported by George Bernard Shaw and HG Wells. His son, Neville Chamberlain, would become prime minister.

Gregory says that Sunday is known by his admirers as Bloody Sunday. This is possibly a reference to Johann Most, an anarchist terrorist who was given the nickname Dynamost. Although a majority of anarchists are pacifists it is through the "Propaganda of the Deed" doctrine that anarchists are usually depicted as psychopaths and murders. Under this doctrine they killed Czar Alexander II and US President William McKinley and attempted other similar murders.
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
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re: Chapter 2

Postby Genie » 19 Jan 2006, 17:30

Johnnie wrote:
Gregory was looking for an excellent disguise but could not find one. He tried a bishop, a millionaire and a general, but each time was caught out. Sunday suggested that Gregory disguise himself as an Anarchist, the only disguise that seemed to work. Gregory then finally says that this very night he is going to get elected into the position of Thursday in the Central Anarchist council.

(Spoiler)
Why would Sunday (instead of Bloody Sunday turned out to be the Peace of Sabbath) suggested that Gregory to disguise himself as an anarchist? I think his intention is to lure Syme (through Gregory). He knows that Syme is smart enough to make himself become Thursday. I feel also that the whole plot smell of 'manipulation'. It's also like a ceremony of initiation.
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Re: Chapter 2

Postby Tuirgin » 19 Jan 2006, 19:54

The Bigsleep J wrote:There is some irony in this chapter, mostly because of how highly organized and elaborate efforts of the Anarchists are to keep spies out. And yet Syme infiltrated them in no time.


And also on a lower level just in the fact that these anarchists, preachers of the chaos of nature, have employed a great amount of order to protect their secret and to oil the wheels of their organization.

The Bigsleep J wrote:Gregory says that Sunday is known by his admirers as Bloody Sunday. This is possibly a reference to Johann Most, an anarchist terrorist who was given the nickname Dynamost.


"Bloody Sunday" is also the name of several days in history, Sundays obviously, in which there were masacres and the like. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday lists three such days that occurred before the writing of TWMWT -- two of which involve the British: the first in London in 1887, the second during the Second Boer War in 1900.

I'll probably post my own thoughts after work.
To read only children's books, treasure / Only childish thoughts, throw / Grown-up things away / And rise from deep sorrows.
-- Osip Mandelshtam, 1908
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re: Chapter 2

Postby Sarah N. » 20 Jan 2006, 00:43

I admit that there may be a slight disproportion, let us say,
between the inner arrangements of this excellent hotel and its
simple and unpretentious exterior. But that is all our modesty.
We are the most modest men that ever lived on earth."

"And who are we?" asked Syme, emptying his champagne glass.

"It is quite simple," replied Gregory. "We are the serious anarchists,
in whom you do not believe."

"Oh!" said Syme shortly. "You do yourselves well in drinks."

"Yes, we are serious about everything," answered Gregory.


This puts me in mind of other Chesterton comments on levity and gravity. I wonder if Gregory is as he is because of a failure to "take himself lightly" as Chesterton said the angels do.

By the way, is all of Chesterton's fiction (excepting his detective stories) bizarre? I have read The Man Who Was Thursday and The Ball and the Cross (which started out alright, but turned into a "nightmare" like Thursday.) They were both bizarre and hard to understand.
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re: Chapter 2

Postby lee_merrill » 20 Jan 2006, 01:46

Tuirgin: ... these anarchists, preachers of the chaos of nature, have employed a great amount of order to protect their secret and to oil the wheels of their organization.

That is a pretty good irony! They even have a Secretary...

Sarah: I wonder if Gregory is as he is because of a failure to "take himself lightly" as Chesterton said the angels do.

Yes, I would certainly say there is a parallel here, and also with (spoiler alert) Sunday bouncing "Like an India rubber ball," and floating away on a balloon...

By the way, is all of Chesterton's fiction (excepting his detective stories) bizarre?

All the Chesterton fiction I have read did have the quality of a nightmare! He's not into pastoral tales (not to mention that there always seems to be a swordfight).

I think that possibly comes from having wandered on the very verges of insanity, Chesterton mentioned at one time being at the precipice of thinking all was illusion, except for himself. That also may be why he has such perception, going down such paths, and coming back, it would seem you would have to learn a turn or two...

Blessings,
Lee

P.S. I have to mention a favorite quote...

Syme received the remark with stolidity, imagining it to be a joke. Accepting the vein of humour, he said, with a well‑bred indifference—

“Oh, bring me some lobster mayonnaise.”

To his indescribable astonishment, the man only said “Certainly, sir!” and went away, apparently to get it.
"As Macdonald said, 'No one loves because he sees reason, but because he loves.'" (C.S. Lewis)
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Certainly Serious

Postby Kanakaberaka » 21 Jan 2006, 06:29

Sarah N. wrote:This puts me in mind of other Chesterton comments on levity and gravity. I wonder if Gregory is as he is because of a failure to "take himself lightly" as Chesterton said the angels do.


You have reminded me of a chapter from Chesterton's Orthodoxy called "The Maniac". In it he explained that only mad men are always certain about what they think. Sane people have doubts about themselves so they are able to think things out with proper humility. The insane act without any doubts and so are serious about everything.

By the way, is all of Chesterton's fiction (excepting his detective stories) bizarre? I have read The Man Who Was Thursday and The Ball and the Cross (which started out alright, but turned into a "nightmare" like Thursday.) They were both bizarre and hard to understand.


I too have read The Ball and The Cross so I know what you mean by bizzarre. Although I would call it "surreal". Manalive is another Chesterton novel where an exceptional character bursts apon a rather dreary reality to stir things up. I have the feeling that Chesterton wanted to write pure fantasy, but felt the need to anchor his stories in the reality of his time and country. In fact he once suggested a story where an English explorer was lost at sea only to be washed up on the seashore of Brighton where he mistook a local pavilion for some sort of pagan temple. He then had this explorer continue his jouney unaware that he had landed in his own country untill the end of the story.
so it goes...
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Agent 00Syme

Postby Kanakaberaka » 21 Jan 2006, 06:51

There are so many elements in chapter two which remind me of a James Bond type spy flick. There is such a dissconect from the precious chapter which was all talk. In this chapter Gregory takes Syme right into the secret anarchist headquarters. All the details mentioned - the unexpected luxury service, the spinning table which takes them to the underground lair, and the row apon row of munitions - would make a fine action adventure movie. Of course Chesterton was not going to stop there. All of these details lead to something deeper than simple pulp fiction.

Gregory's failed disguise was another interesting detail. The fact that he did not understand that a military man would not be bloodthirsty, but have an appreciation of the costs of war. The poke at the wealthy by saying that a millionare would not have the intellegence to defend capital. But the best had to be Gregory's failure to understand how a Bishop would think. From what I have read he is not alone, even in our day. For example, there are many science fiction writers who have no idea what religion is all about. When they have clerical types in their stories they are usualy humorless men imprisioned by their own dogmas. You would think such writers would take the time to do a little reseach rather than rely on televangelists for their character studies.
so it goes...
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Re: re: Chapter 2

Postby magpie » 03 Feb 2006, 22:27

lee_merrill wrote:
Tuirgin: ... these anarchists, preachers of the chaos of nature, have employed a great amount of order to protect their secret and to oil the wheels of their organization.

That is a pretty good irony! They even have a Secretary...


Perhaps it is inherent in all absolutist ideologies that they inadvertently contain their opposite. Anarchy would certainly be no exception. I remember entering the college student union during a strike in the 70's to find an unkept fellow sprawled on a sofa. I asked if he was ill, and he answered that he was just exhausted. He was the President of the local branch of the Anarchist Student Organization and had just been at an all-day Steering Committee meeting. Think about it!

The extreme organization of these anarchists, along with the opulent luxury of the meal offered to Syme, seems to be Chesterton's ironic means of demonstrating the underlying hypocrisy of their stated purposes. They want chaos, but not at the expense of their own security and creature comforts.
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