This forum was closed on October 1st, 2010. However, the archives are open to the public and filled with vast amounts of good reading and information for you to enjoy. If you wish to meet some Wardrobians, please visit the Into the Wardrobe Facebook group.

Chapter 3

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter 3

Postby The Bigsleep J » 02 Feb 2006, 13:50

When we last left Syme and Gregory both were on a boat-trip to the Moulin Rouge, both armed with a large basket of cottage cheese and port… Just kidding.

Syme had in the previous chapter revealed that he was a policeman and now Gregory wanted to kill him or turn him over but his reminded that both of them are in the same boat “and jolly seasick” too. Syme might die, but Gregory might at least be discredited as a reliable anarchist. But Syme can’t tell the police about all this either because of his oath, so both are snookered – both are in a situation where they have equal chances of loosing and winning. Syme (through clever talk) gets a seat at the meeting and soon the election is underway.

When Gregory delivers his speech is turns out to be a humanistic and kind speech, but many of the other anarchists don’t approve of the speech. It strikes them as being too kind, but they don’t really voice their disappointed. Syme however senses this and begins to impose himself on the anarchists with a speech so fiery and passionate that they elect him as Thursday despite the pleas of Gregory.

The chapter ends with Syme and Gregory speaking final words to each other. Syme says that Gregory is a gentlemen who has kept his word while the other only manages to call him a devil. Syme has the final word and went down to the dock, off to meet Sunday.

*****
And now some Disorganized thoughts

There is stark contrast between the Syme of the first two chapters and the Syme of chapter three and the rest of the book. In the first part Syme acts slightly like an idiot – a book learned fool who happens to stumble into a strange situation. In this chapter we learn that he is clever and quick-witted, the way he steers the anarchists to elect him as Thursday. Obviously the Syme of the first two chapters were only a mask, of Obviously the Syme of the first two chapters were only a mask, a clever deception to gain access to the Anarchists. But Syme did not plan being elected to Thursday at the beginning of the evening so he is literally willing to die for the cause where others would not have.

This chapter also has a lot of black humour, like Buttons saying that the attempts to bomb Brighton pier would have killed more people “under happier circumstances”. The last Thursday ironically also died “through his faith in a hygienic mixture of chalk and water as a substitute for milk, which beverage he regarded as barbaric, and as involving cruelty to the cow. Cruelty, or anything approaching to cruelty, revolted him always.” This ironic on many levels, seeing that he seems to care more for the cow than the people he’s blowing up. It reminds me of an incident where the director PETA sent a letter to Yasser Arafat complaining about a donkey being used in a suicide-bombing by Palestinians. The letter did not complain about the killing of innocent people but just about “leaving the animals out of this conflict.” She later commented on it stating “It is not my business to inject myself into human wars.” I wonder if this is not Chesterton poking his friend George Bernard Shaw, a vegetarian, in the ribs. Shaw, I heard, supported the Boer War (for instance) yet considered farming with animals cruel.

I think to some degree Gregory’s speech is a bit of an inconsistency. His speech doesn’t seem to reflect his rebellious spirit that came through so much in the two chapters and which comes forward in the last chapter as well. Its more like a pacifistic anarchist’s speech, not the insane sociopath who congregate underground in the book, nor those who meet at the Council of Days in Chapter 5 & 6 who speak of unspeakable horrors. In short, it does not really feel right.
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
User avatar
The Bigsleep J
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3235
Joined: May 2002
Location: South Africa

Re: Chapter 3

Postby Tuirgin » 02 Feb 2006, 18:36

The Bigsleep J wrote:I think to some degree Gregory’s speech is a bit of an inconsistency. His speech doesn’t seem to reflect his rebellious spirit that came through so much in the two chapters and which comes forward in the last chapter as well. Its more like a pacifistic anarchist’s speech, not the insane sociopath who congregate underground in the book, nor those who meet at the Council of Days in Chapter 5 & 6 who speak of unspeakable horrors. In short, it does not really feel right.


Well, we are given the reason for this:

TMWWT, Chap III, pg 16 (Dover) wrote:He had made up his mind, and he saw his best policy quite plain in front of him like a white road. His best chance was to make a softened and ambiguous speech, such as would leave on the detective's mind the impression that the anarchist brotherhood was a very mild affair after all. He believed in his own literary power, his capacity for suggesting fine shades and picking perfect words. He thought that with care he could succeed, in spite of all the people around him, in conveying an impression of the institution, subtly and delicately false. Syme had once thought that anarchists, under all their bravado, were only playing the fool. Could he not now, in the hour of peril, make Syme think so again?


Gregory is so determined to fool Syme that he is willing to make a politician's speech before his anarchist "comrades". It may have been a calculated decision -- deeming that there was no one else to be nominated, he risked the disappointment of his peers in his milk and water speech. It also appears that he takes too much confidence in his own "literary power". Was it "subtly and delicately false?" No -- it was quite obviously benign, as are so many political speeches; but perhaps in his own mind it was masterful.

I would venture to suggest that Chesterton is showing here his common argument that there is more wit and skill in the good than in the bad. An awkward way of stating that, but perhaps my thought is clearer than my expression. Or maybe not. :P
To read only children's books, treasure / Only childish thoughts, throw / Grown-up things away / And rise from deep sorrows.
-- Osip Mandelshtam, 1908
User avatar
Tuirgin
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 40
Joined: Dec 2005
Location: Cape Coral, FL

re: Chapter 3

Postby magpie » 03 Feb 2006, 22:39

I had a very different take on Gregory's speech. It seemed to me that despite his ideological claims, he is deep down a coward who is so intent on preserving his own skin in the presence of an authority figure that he is willing to say whatever he thinks is "safe." Of course the irony is that the "safe" thing is in fact the most dangerous, and puts the whole organization in the hands of the very one from whom he tries to convince himself he is protecting it. Throughout this whole episode, Gregory represents our human ability to deceive, not only others, but ultimately ourselves when we feel personally threatened.
"Love is the will to extend one's self in order to nurture one's own or another's spiritual growth."
M. Scott Peck

Member of the Religious Tolerance Cabal of the Wardrobe
User avatar
magpie
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1096
Joined: Feb 2005
Location: Minnesota

Gilbert and Chesterton

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Feb 2006, 06:53

The thing which struck me most about this chapter is how both Syme and Gregory held true to a sense of honor. This reminded me of some of the opereta plots from Gilbert and Sullivan. For example, in The Pirates of Penzance Freddy remains loyal to the pirate captain he is apprenticed to even though he intends to fight against them after completing his training. Much to his chagrin, Freddy's birthday of February 29 complicates matters since he is required to remain an apprentice untill his 21st birthday rather than his 21st year!
Chesterton has set up a chess game between an anarchist and an undercover police officer in such a way that neither can give away his true identity. Holding true to one's honor under circumstances seems to be a uniquely British virtue. It seems to me that most other people would find a way to neutralize an opponent in spite of any promises given him. I could imagine Gregory pointing to Syme and telling his fellow anarchists that he had captured the policeman by trickery. And I would assume that such would be alllowed under such a situation in real life. Yet here we have an anarchist who has compromised his organization and a secret policeman who has blown his own cover. Could it be that Gabriel Syme was taking a deliberate chance by revealing his true identity to Gregory? Could Syme have intended the reaction he got from Gregory - the half hearted apologetic speach given to sooth Syme's suspicions about the anarchist? Gregory's speach was a blunder because it affected the other anarchists more than Syme. I am sure that Syme already had his mind made up about Gregory by this time. Syme seeing this opportunity exploited it by filling the room with the sort of fiery speech the anarchists have come to expect. By fulfilling their expectations he is given their trust. And Gregory is honor bound not to warn them of Syme's deception.
I love the punch line at the end of this chapter. When Syme compliments Gregory for keeping his word down to "a small particular". This sets Gregory off to ask in his confusion, "What did I promise you?". To which Syme replies "A very entertaining evening". And so it was for both Syme and us readers.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

Re: Chapter 3

Postby The Bigsleep J » 09 Feb 2006, 07:15

Tuirgin wrote:Well, we are given the reason for this:


Crap. I should have read the chapter more carefully. :)

Tuirgin wrote:I would venture to suggest that Chesterton is showing here his common argument that there is more wit and skill in the good than in the bad. An awkward way of stating that, but perhaps my thought is clearer than my expression. Or maybe not. :P


Well, I agree with you about Chesterton saying there is more wit & skill in goodness, don't think the example works because Syme says (or implies) evil things (which Gregory deems hypocritical) even if he doesn't mean it. But that is what the anarchist congregation wants to hear.
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
User avatar
The Bigsleep J
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3235
Joined: May 2002
Location: South Africa

Re: re: Chapter 3

Postby The Bigsleep J » 09 Feb 2006, 07:16

magpie wrote:I had a very different take on Gregory's speech. It seemed to me that despite his ideological claims, he is deep down a coward who is so intent on preserving his own skin in the presence of an authority figure that he is willing to say whatever he thinks is "safe." Of course the irony is that the "safe" thing is in fact the most dangerous, and puts the whole organization in the hands of the very one from whom he tries to convince himself he is protecting it. Throughout this whole episode, Gregory represents our human ability to deceive, not only others, but ultimately ourselves when we feel personally threatened.


This is a very good observation. I can't think of anything inciteful to add to it. :)
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
User avatar
The Bigsleep J
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3235
Joined: May 2002
Location: South Africa

Re: Gilbert and Chesterton

Postby The Bigsleep J » 09 Feb 2006, 07:23

Kanakaberaka wrote:Chesterton has set up a chess game between an anarchist and an undercover police officer in such a way that neither can give away his true identity.


This is an interesting set-up that Chesterton does not really use. This is another way of fooling us in thinking that this is just an eccentric detective novel. In chapter five however the story turns into a game of a different sort.

Holding true to one's honor under circumstances seems to be a uniquely British virtue. It seems to me that most other people would find a way to neutralize an opponent in spite of any promises given him. I could imagine Gregory pointing to Syme and telling his fellow anarchists that he had captured the policeman by trickery.


That would have been a good way to try and do away with Syme, but Syme could easily have slid back into his role and fool the anarchist like he fooled Gregory. However Chesterton does not go this route because that might distract from the allegory.

Could it be that Gabriel Syme was taking a deliberate chance by revealing his true identity to Gregory? Could Syme have intended the reaction he got from Gregory - the half hearted apologetic speach given to sooth Syme's suspicions about the anarchist?


I don't think so. That's too ludicrous a gamble. I think Syme just saw his oppertunity and took it. He only possibly revealed himself in order to break Gregory's upper hand and put them on equal footing. That's what I think. :)
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
User avatar
The Bigsleep J
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 3235
Joined: May 2002
Location: South Africa

Syme's Gambit

Postby Kanakaberaka » 09 Feb 2006, 09:25

The Bigsleep J wrote:
I think Syme just saw his oppertunity and took it. He only possibly revealed himself in order to break Gregory's upper hand and put them on equal footing. That's what I think. :)


If this is so, then Syme is certainly not missing a beat in picking up and using all that is going on around him. Talk about resourcefullness.
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

re: Chapter 3

Postby Genie » 09 Feb 2006, 10:01

I tend to agree with Kanakaberaka on Syme's motif in revealing himself to Gregory. I think Syme predicted that Gregory was a coward and not a 'true' terrorist at heart. Syme knew that Gregory would soften his rhetoric knowing there was a detective in the audience. And Syme seized this opportunity to make himself elected.
Gregory to me is a phony, all talks, not a man of action.
Totus tuus

Member of the Religious Tolerance Cabal of the Wardrobe
User avatar
Genie
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 713
Joined: Jul 2004
Location: Krakow, Poland (originally from Taiwan)

Re: re: Chapter 3

Postby The Pfifltrigg » 21 Feb 2006, 03:42

magpie wrote:I had a very different take on Gregory's speech. It seemed to me that despite his ideological claims, he is deep down a coward who is so intent on preserving his own skin in the presence of an authority figure that he is willing to say whatever he thinks is "safe." Of course the irony is that the "safe" thing is in fact the most dangerous, and puts the whole organization in the hands of the very one from whom he tries to convince himself he is protecting it. Throughout this whole episode, Gregory represents our human ability to deceive, not only others, but ultimately ourselves when we feel personally threatened.


Dangerous to his own skin and his own purposes, but of course, Aslan is also dangerous: "I have devoured kings and kingdoms, wise men and fools," or something like that, as he tells Shasta as he walks the cliffward side of the path during the foggy night in the pass between Archenland and Narnia (tH&hB: CSL). So thus, it is in fact the good, the best course in the end, that is the most dangerous now.

Edit: Genie is right. Dead-on right.
False ideas may be refuted indeed by argument, but by true ideas alone are they expelled. — Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Cardinal Newman
Freedom lost and then regained bites with deeper fangs than freedom never in danger. — Cicero
You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. — Ray Bradbury
User avatar
The Pfifltrigg
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 624
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Where I can reach the coffee.

Malacandran Welcome

Postby Kanakaberaka » 22 Feb 2006, 00:33

Welcome aboard fellow hnau. And don't worry about any mis-spelling. I do it all the time myself. Is it on purpose though?
so it goes...
User avatar
Kanakaberaka
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 1028
Joined: Jul 1999
Location: Just outside of Rego Park, NYC

re: Chapter 3

Postby The Pfifltrigg » 24 Feb 2006, 21:03

No, it's not: I just hadn't a copy of Silent Planet handy when I signed up, and it's been a couple of years since I read it. But as a lit-geek, I hate misspelling things. :lol: I suppose it helps to keep me brought down a peg. (Bigsleep J might recognize my avatar-pic: praise God for DVD screen-captures! ;) Strongbad rocks!)
False ideas may be refuted indeed by argument, but by true ideas alone are they expelled. — Apologia Pro Vita Sua: Cardinal Newman
Freedom lost and then regained bites with deeper fangs than freedom never in danger. — Cicero
You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. — Ray Bradbury
User avatar
The Pfifltrigg
Wardrobian
 
Posts: 624
Joined: Feb 2006
Location: Where I can reach the coffee.


Return to The Man Who Was Thursday

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered members and 1 guest