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Chapter Six

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter Six

Postby The Bigsleep J » 16 Mar 2006, 07:44

In this chapter we’re still with Gabriel Syme at his first meeting in the Council of Days. The rest of the council is busy discussing a terrorist attack – the joint death of the French President and the visiting Czar. Syme had little input, but neither had Sunday who was looking at Syme the whole time. This gave our good Thursday the feeling that the balcony was a trap of sorts that Sunday had set. He is tempted at one point to let police constable down in Leicester Square know, but he kept remembered his Great Promise to Gregory. However it occurred to him that he might fall prey to their philosophy.

Soon however, before the discussions could be taken further Sunday leads them to a dark room where he reveals to the men that there is a spy in their midst. Syme felt that it would be revealed that he is the spy. However it turns out to be Gogol who is revealed to be the spy. With Syme relieved, the chapter ends.


* * * * * *

Plotwise this is a very short chapter, but it delves in very deeply, on a psychological level, into Syme’s mind, especially his mental anxiety. Because of the awesome, terrible presence of Sunday, who is always looking at him, he is unable to focus on his role in this adventure. As his temptation grows to let the police know the more isolated he feels. However at an important time a barrel-organ starts playing a tune in the street and this gives him a sort of supernatural courage. The barrel-organ seemed to remind him that he is not really doing this for the police or for ‘eccentric who lived in the dark room’ but for the people on the street whom the barrel-organ represents. This is not the first time there is a barrel organ in the book though – in the very first chapter, when Syme spends the evening talking to Gregory’s sister, Rosamond, also somewhat supernatural.

All the time there was a smell of lilac all round him. Once he heard very faintly in some distant street a barrel-organ begin to play, and it seemed to him that his heroic words were moving to a tiny tune from under or beyond the world.


I can’t help but wonder what the barrel organ is supposed to mean. The chapter also names the old Medieval French text, the Song of Roland as part of Syme’s inspiration to continue with his quest. The Song of Roland recounts the Battle of Roncevaux Pass on August 15, 778.

Also, as Tuirgin pointed out at the beginning of the study, Sunday here is something of the god of a pessimist’s nightmare. In a certain sense Sunday is described in nightmarish terms. He even gets the feeling that Sunday might be able to strike him dead at any time. Later the other members of the Anarchist councils would feel the same.

Chesterton also makes another connection with Syme thinking that Sunday might a super-man, aka Übermensch. Chesterton had a dislike for Friedrich Nietzsche, who formulated the Übermensch theory (if theory is a right word). Chesterton criticized this idea as immoral in many works and even made fun of the idea at several points, though his friend George Bernard Shaw was a big supporter of the idea. I don’t really know enough about the Übermensch though really discuss the idea in detail though.
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Over a barrel (organ)

Postby Kanakaberaka » 30 Mar 2006, 00:29

From what I could google, the barrel organ was sort of like a player piano. The tunes played on it were determined by a barrel shaped part which held the musical notes to be played. All the "organ grinder" had to do was turn a crank. I belive the tunes could be changed by switching barrels. I have the impression that Chesterton wanted to convey a sense of the common man with this rather mundane musical instrument. There is something anti-eliteist about an instrument played by an unskilled laborer rather than a talented musician.

Next comes the quote from the Song of Roland. Chesterton mentions the Old French saying : "Pagens ont tort et Chretiens ont droit", which translates : Pagans are wrong and Christians are right. In my humble opinion the original French has more of a ring to it than the simple English translation. Syme, like Roland is taking a stand against what he sees as pagen influence. This does not bode well for Syme since Roland was killed by Saladin. Split in two, as a matter of fact.

Chesterton has us sitting on the edge of our seats as Sunday glares at him during the whole breakfast. When Sunday declares the presence of a traitor we assume the worst. After all, this chapter is entitled "The Exposure". When Gogol turns out to be Sunday's person of interest, we breath a sigh of relief along with him.
so it goes...
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Re: Over a barrel (organ)

Postby The Bigsleep J » 31 Mar 2006, 06:17

Kanakaberaka wrote:Syme, like Roland is taking a stand against what he sees as pagen influence. This does not bode well for Syme since Roland was killed by Saladin. Split in two, as a matter of fact.


Hmmm. Interesting fact. It does show his determination, however, to die for the cause he believes in.

And now, just for kicks, a pic of a barrel organ.

Image
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