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Chapter Ten

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter Ten

Postby The Bigsleep J » 08 Jun 2006, 19:11

Finally, after a long hiatus, I am back. Enjoy.

In this chapter Syme and his companions, Doctor Bull and the Professor, have come to a café were the Marquis St. Eustache is busy dining with some acquaintainces. Syme prepares a list of questions and replies for him and adversary; he comments that some of the Marquis' replies are quite witty and is drunk enough not to feel dishearted when its pointed out that his system is absurd. He walks over and attempts to pull his adversary's nose in order to strike up a duell with him. He doesn't succeed in pulling the Marquis' nose but succeeds in setting a duel for the next morning shortly before the train to Paris would depart. It is Syme's plan to delay the Marquis long enough to get him to get him to miss the train.

The next morning they meet at a field not far from the train station. The Professor and Bull are Syme's seconds and the Marquis' friends are his, the one a colonel in the French
Légion d'honneur. The fight begins and Syme realizes that his oponent is a fierce warrior. But he manages to cut the Marquis in the face, only to see no wound. For the next few minutes he attempt to wound him in the face, but each wound gives no blood or cuts. This makes Syme panic somewhat more.

Finally when the train steams into the station does the Marquis surrender and offers Syme to pull his nose. His nose comes off and the Marquis begins to shed his face like a skin, saying that the train has caught him. Bull and Syme assert that they will not allow him to board the train, but the former Marquis says that indeed he is also a policeman (an inspector Radcliffe) and that they have played into a fiendish plot concocted by Sunday, who may have already taken the world while they were fighting in the field, and that Sunday or his Secretary were on the train to catch them. Seeing an army of masked men (one with the smile of the secretary) depart from the train they begin to run into the forrest. But that's for next time...


This is one of my favourite chapters, mostly because of its beginning (the part where Syme plans and confronts the Marquis) but also because it builds towards one of the sections of the book I like the most; the part where the earth temporarily descends into a state of anarchy as they believe that they are the last good men on the earth. The next two chapters I admire because they are so fraught with the elements of a nightmare; I wonder if Chesterton, knowing that his audience is bracing for the Secretary to be a policeman, decided to delay them with the elements of absurd anarchy. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Interesting that when Syme gets up to confront the Marquis he gets up and hears a tune of music, similar like when he felt tempted to warn the police of the anarchist meeting a few chapters earlier. What force does this suggest? Growth of his intellectual and spiritual certainty?

Its strange that Inspector Ratcliffe is one of the few policemen in disguise (and indeed in deep cover) whose name we discover. It can be assumed that Doctor Bull remains Doctor Bull and Syme was always Syme, but we never learn the name of the Secretary, or of Gogol or the Professor. Of the Six Philosophers, only half of them are named. Oversight or hidden meaning? I vote for oversight. ;)
Insert supposedly witty but random absurd comment here and add water
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Syme time, Syme channel

Postby Kanakaberaka » 11 Jun 2006, 15:14

I loved the opening lines of this chapter where Gabriel Syme attempts to write down a complete dialogue for the comming confrontation between himself and the Marquis St. Eustache. Especialy when "the Marquis" asks Syme how he feels and he replies "Oh, just the Syme". Syme refers to this outline as his "catechism", which is a Roman Catholic book of questions and answers about the faith. I wonder if Chesterton is telling us that you can not expect to to through life following a predetermined outline if your adversary does not read from the same script (and WHY should he?).

There are other curious things of note. One of the Marquis' seconds, the Legion d'Honneur member, is a Colonel Ducroix. The name Ducroix is French for "The Cross". Could this be a reference to the Crucifiction of Jesus? Then again, a duel is not the same as an execution.

Another name which comes to light after the unmasking of the Marquis is Inspector Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe was a name carried over to England after the Norman Conquest. This family settled in Nottingham and Ratcliffe means "red cliff". I have no idea what, if any significance this has to the story. I suspect that Chesterton simply wanted to unveil the swarthy Marquis as a pale Englishman in disguise. It appears that once again a foreigner is revealed to be a native, of Chesterton's England. So these police officers are also "neighbors". The tone seems to be that beneath their exotic exteriors, the investigators are all of one nationality.

Finally, when Syme tells Ratcliffe that they must go to Paris to prevent an assassination, Ratcliffe replies: "Going to Jericho to throw a Jabberwock". The Jabberwock is an imaginary monster from the Lewis Carol poem Jabberwocky from Through The Looking-Glass.... So Ratcliffe is calling the bombing plot a phoney distraction. There are many nonsense words in the Jabberwocky poem, so I suppose that is the tone which Ratcliffe is trying to convey.
so it goes...
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Re: Syme time, Syme channel

Postby The Bigsleep J » 11 Jun 2006, 17:25

Woah, thanks for all the info, Kanak! :)

Kanakaberaka wrote:So Ratcliffe is calling the bombing plot a phoney distraction. There are many nonsense words in the Jabberwocky poem, so I suppose that is the tone which Ratcliffe is trying to convey.


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'


That's one of my favourite Lewis Carrol poems. I can quote parts of it, and once heard an excellent recording of Shakespearean actor Brian Blessed read it. But I digress; that is possibly the tone Rarcliffe is trying to convey.
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