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Chapter 14

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter 14

Postby The Bigsleep J » 11 Nov 2006, 16:27

In this chapter Syme and his friends continue to pursue Sunday across the fields and hills of England. After being abandoned by their cabbys they make it on foot and while resting they discuss their views on Sunday and what it all meant, each giving a different interpretation of what what Sunday possibly is up to. Suddenly Sunday’s balloon crashes down into a field and they speculate that he may or may not have died in the crash. Suddenly they see a servant man approaching them. He blends into the background very well, which is why they did not see him immediately. He invites them to his master’s home and the oblige.

They reach a large house that feels like a distant childhood memory. They each get a room and a costume and are told that there is a fancy dress ball that night. Syme’s costume is Thursday, with the sun and the moon upon it. Syme dresses in the costume and leaves the room.


Oh, this is the most difficult chapter to dicuss (next to the next one). It loomed during this whole study like a monolithic stone of some sort. But do it I have to and I’ve been putting off finishing this study for too long, so here comes a lot of disorganized thoughts. My thoughts tend to be better organised in the last chapter when everything comes together.

Each character seems to disagree as to what Sunday exactly is and all see something different in him. I wonder if they are not projecting their differing world views onto Sunday and interpreting Sunday according to their world views, moods and cultural background. Many people (Christians and atheists) have commented that people tend to shape God in their own image and that this image is more or less the product of their cultural background. Many theologians believed that stripping away the cultural trappings of one’s past and childhood will help you see Christ and Christianity more clearly (though not all of Syme’s companions are Christians). Each thus sees something different within Sunday, yet in a sense it is all the same.

Bull begins by saying that he had sympathy with Sunday, even if he was wicked and compares him with a baloon. He says that even behind the wickedness there is a sort of good humour, a gaiety and begins to talk about good natured tricks (mentioned in chapter 13’s study). He also calls Sunday a bounder. According to dictionary.com a bounder is either an obtrusive, ill-bred man or a person or thing that bounds (which goes without saying). In a certain sense the first definition is correct because some of the discriptions used during the previous chapter’s chase sequence paint a grotesque picture and the picture of Sunday gulping down food and pints of coffee at the first meeting also reinforces this picture. But “someone who bounds” can also mean (1) to leap forward or upward; spring, or (2) to progress by forward leaps or springs; or (3) to bounce; rebound. The last definition specifically depicts the idea of not being able to be destroyed, of being able to bounce back, and Bull admires that. My best guess of really what Bull means (moderate strength is shown in power, supreme strength in levity) is that he recognises a power behind several good natured jokes.

The Secretary then begins to talk of his experiences on Sunday, which seems wholly opposite. His views of Sunday seems to reflect more of a deistic worldview; he sees Sunday as something “both gross and sad in the nature of things”, which seems to suggest the idea of a demiurge; a ‘clockwork’ god outside of the universe who most likely cares nothing for the creatures living in the universe he created. He also likens the “shapeless” protoplasm which suggests the beginning of life through evolution, also a popular deistic world view. This also points towards the coming chapter where the Secretary jumps up and states that he can’t accept a God who destroys nations and still gives his believers peace.

Inspector Ratcliffe view is more laid back rather compared to Bull’s somewhat delightful vision and the Secretary’s stark view. But he does add that what worries him about Sunday is that he’s absent minded and that he can “forget you’re there.” He likens it to animals, who are both innocent and pitiless, who kill not out of choice of freewill but of instinct. This actually reminds me of some of the interpretations behind William Blake’s The Tyger, about the line “did He who made the Lamb make thee”? (one favourite rhetorical question posted about that line is, if God made something as beautiful yet ferocious like a tiger, what does that say about God?). What Ratcliffe’s views means though (“carelessness of a virgin forrest, Syme says) though entirely I’m not sure.

Gogol just compares Sunday to the noonday sun, a favourite universal aspect viewed upon by many as a deity.

The Professor’s view seem to suggest an extreme kind of doubt, where everything he sees is not taken as what it is (indeed, he states he does not believe in matter). He likens it to Buddhism, maybe suggesting that the Professor’s views study out of Eastern philosophy, which Chesterton did not like.

Syme finally points out that all of their views have something in common – that they liken Sunday to the universe itself. Syme shares this view, but indeed points out that he sees Sunday as the world / universe as a whole. When he saw his back (i.e. looked at the world) he saw nothing but a harsh world and likens it to nothing human and to animals likes apes and oxen. But this is how Sunday looked from a distance, from behind, from the Leicester Square on the ground. When he saw Sunday up close he compares the face like an archangel; it frightened him because it was beautiful (it does suggest an inconsistancy though compared to chapter 5 & 6, but never mind). Martin Gardner believes that the story suggests (and it does seem obvious now) that Chesterton saw the world as “the back of God”, and Syme says that the back is “only a jest”. Also, just like Bull refered to “good natured tricks”, he also likens the chase scene of the previous chapter to a dance and a game of hide and seek, suggesting that God is in a good sense playing with his children by not showing Himself (I think). He finally points out right before Sunday crashes (as if he has been waiting for them to piece things together) that everything on earth is not real, it’s all just the back of something bigger – that’s the secret – that everything is hiding a face. “If only we get round in front...”

There’s also many hints of paganism in these chapters. All of their world views seem to have elements of the pagan world view, which sometimes saw gods as sociopathic and either the creators and controllers of nature, or as being just an extension of nature and are limited to it like man. At one point a reference is made to Pan. It once again reflects darker part of the dual nature of Sunday, specifically the chaotic anarchistic part. The dualism of Sunday I’ll handle in the next chapter though...

Also I wonder if the country manor of Sunday isn’t supposed to suggest a starting point of their travels – that this game was set in motion before their births (though that does sound a bit too much like a a form of Calvinism).

Okay, that’s enough Chestertonian exegesis for now. :-) I think I’m going to do the next chapter study in two parts.
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Welcome Home, Gabriel Syme?

Postby Kanakaberaka » 19 Nov 2006, 00:56

While I found the detective/ philosopher's impressions of Sunday interesting, it was the reception prepared for them that intrigued me. If this story were one of those James Bond movies I am certain the villain would have provided such a greeting to give agent 007 a nasty surprise apon his arrival. Instead the detectives are honorably recieved into Sunday's abode. All of the persuers feel "good vibes" about the place when they recognise architectural elements from thier boyhoods. Even Sunday's coachmen have an air of welcome about them, more like ambassadors than servants. They salute the detectives with their swords rather than threaten them.
Most interesting was the garment Syme was given to replace his tatered suit. Chesterton refered to it as a domino, an androgynous sort of loose fitting robe. The online dictionary refers to a domino as "A costume consisting of a hooded robe worn with an eye mask at a masquerade". A most appropriate garment for the next chapter. But the origin of the costume's name also has significance. Domino comes from French and Latin for "Benedicamus Domino", or "let us praise the Lord". An impressive accessory included is a sword. In my opinion, this adds a masculine look to the domino robe with it's sun and moon design on peacock green. The sword worn at an angle in it's sheath appears to be a sort of phallic symbol. This seems to symbolize empowerment as well as masculinity.
so it goes...
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Postby PubliusValerius » 27 Nov 2006, 21:52

But chapter 14 isn't the end...
I would like to talk about chapter 15, because the most interessting questions appear after the revelation of the identity of Sunday.

like the question of Ratcliffe: "It seems so silly that you should have been on both sides and fought yourself.”
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Postby Sven » 27 Nov 2006, 22:28

Patience, PV, we'll get there when we get there.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Postby PubliusValerius » 28 Nov 2006, 09:55

tnx, can't wait :smile:
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Postby The Bigsleep J » 28 Nov 2006, 19:09

I'm working on it. :D
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Don't rush it

Postby Kanakaberaka » 29 Nov 2006, 01:04

The Bigsleep J wrote:I'm working on it. :D


I'd rather see some more views about chapter 14 from other readers before you move on to the final chapter, TBSJ. There's certainly a lot more to be said about the detectives' observations about Sunday.
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Re: Don't rush it

Postby The Bigsleep J » 29 Nov 2006, 18:20

Kanakaberaka wrote:
The Bigsleep J wrote:I'm working on it. :D


I'd rather see some more views about chapter 14 from other readers before you move on to the final chapter, TBSJ. There's certainly a lot more to be said about the detectives' observations about Sunday.


But since no one is contributing I suppose we should push forward. Everybody must be as confused and uncertain as I am. :wink: :toothy-grin:
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Dazed and Confused

Postby Kanakaberaka » 29 Nov 2006, 23:20

The Bigsleep J wrote: Everybody must be as confused and uncertain as I am. :wink: :toothy-grin:


If I may offer a bit or constructive criticism TBSJ, it seems to me that you enjoy this work by Chesterton more than you understand it. Not that I can blame you because The Man Who Was Thursday is such a phantasmagorical yarn. Though it does not feel like an allegory, it is obvious that there are deeper meanings to the elements of the story. Over the course of your study you have given us your personal impressions of it rather than attempt to decipher Chesterton's intentions. The one positive thing about your study is that you allow other posters to "fill in the blanks" after you present each chapter's outline along with your own questions about it.
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Re: Dazed and Confused

Postby The Bigsleep J » 30 Nov 2006, 11:49

Kanakaberaka wrote:If I may offer a bit or constructive criticism TBSJ, it seems to me that you enjoy this work by Chesterton more than you understand it.


I admit I enjoy it more than I understand it, but part of this study is to curtail the fact that I don't. :smile:

Kanakaberaka wrote:Over the course of your study you have given us your personal impressions of it rather than attempt to decipher Chesterton's intentions.


I will cover what I think (more or less) his intentions were in the final chapter. That is, if I remember to do so (which is not a joke). I can sometimes forget to add things that I thought of adding from the very beginning.
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