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Chapter 15, Part One

A study of a book by GK Chesterton.

Chapter 15, Part One

Postby The Bigsleep J » 09 Feb 2007, 19:57

Okay, I better get this finished. I’ve procrastinated long enough. Here’s part one of the study of the final chapter.

In the final chapter, Syme and his fellow policeman go down to the garden of the large estate they arrived at in the previous chapter, though they have not seen Sunday yet. They were dressed in the costumes provided for them, each signifying a day in Creation. While sitting on the pavilion arranged for them they watch a great costume party before them, which seem to reflect in some part their recent adventure and in another part the world as a whole, seemingly alive with life. Meanwhile Sunday come to sit down dressed in a robe of white. After all the partygoers moved either away or to the house Sunday begins to speak. After his speech the Secretary calls out to Sunday and says that he can not accept Sunday as the Peace of God. The others accept this, however, but still feel unsatisfied on some level. Then another complainer comes forward...

The new clothes that the policemen were are described and compared as ecclesiastical vestments, but seem to symbolize and reflect the personality of each of them. Syme’s, for instance, is the day the day the sun and moon were created, and Chesterton says that “for him the great moment is not the creation of the light, but the creation of the sun and moon.”

But now the chapter comes to the denoument (of sorts) of the allegory; where we are given our final clues for the puzzle that is Thursday. Sunday begins to talk:

We will eat and drink later,” he said. “Let us remain together a little, we who have loved each other so sadly, and have fought so long. I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you were always heroes—epic on epic, iliad on iliad, and you always brothers in arms. Whether it was but recently (for time is nothing), or at the beginning of the world, I sent you out to war. I sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnatural virtue. You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it. And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself.


This part seems to reflect what some people call “the silence of God”, when people who believe in God suddenly feel themselves seperated from Him; or because they feel that God has ceased talking to them, abandoned them or even ceased to seem realistic. “I sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing, and to you I was only a voice commanding valour and an unnatural virtue. You heard the voice in the dark, and you never heard it again. The sun in heaven denied it, the earth and sky denied it, all human wisdom denied it.” This part of the speech reflects how some people, during a spiritual crises, may suddenly find the things that used to see God’s creation through silent. It draws again from the imagery of nature (that could be construed as science) as well as “human wisdom”, (secular philosophy). The most puzzling one, however, is: ”And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself.”. I’m not sure what that can mean.

When the Secretary asks Sunday whom he is, and he answered “The Peace of God”, it was like a bomb that dropped. The Secretary jumps up and begins to wring his garment to pieces and give an angry but heartfelt rant against Sunday.

“I know what you mean,” he cried, “and it is exactly that that I cannot forgive you. I know you are contentment, optimism, what do they call the thing, an ultimate reconciliation. Well, I am not reconciled. If you were the man in the dark room, why were you also Sunday, an offence to the sunlight? If you were from the first our father and our friend, why were you also our greatest enemy? We wept, we fled in terror; the iron entered into our souls—and you are the peace of God! Oh, I can forgive God His anger, though it destroyed nations; but I cannot forgive Him His peace.”


I have stated before that the secretary seems to reflect deism, and this illustrates it well. He can conceive an evil god whom created a hostile universe and that seems to laugh at him from behind the screen. Demiurges tend to be hostile to life, but some see them as extensions of the universe, in some way bound to it and not outside it; the Secretary can forgive the Sunday, whom he sees a demiurge, for “destroying nations”, but can’t reconcile such aspects with a God of Love and Peace. He’s angry and mere Peace will not satisfy him at this stage.

The others are less hostile to Sunday; Syme says that he enjoyed the adventure but still would like to know, because his reason is crying out. He wants Sunday to answer his questions. Ratcliffe can’t understand why he “fought himself” (that is, create a universe that would make people believe in him so hard at times). Bull is content not to understand anything, but the professor is not happy because Sunday “let me stray a little too near to hell.” And Gogol just want to know why he was hurt so; he did not “mind the step” when he walked out of the restaurant in chapter six and shared little of their adventures. Did this exclusion hurt him on some childlike level?

Sunday does not reply, but says “I have heard your complaints in order. And here, I think, comes another to complain, and we will hear him also.” Which we’ll discuss in the next part; the final part.

I have mentioned in the previous chapter study that the Sunday character is somewhat dualistic on a symbolic level. As a policeman he is God, the symbol of order in the universe, and as an anarchist he is nature (as symbolised with Paganism, which does not view gods as we Christians tend to view God). The idea behind this is that the world is “the back of God”, the way He reveals himself to us through nature; but at times the universe seems terrible and horrible, and some find it impossible to reconcile the “back” with “the front”; the seeming anarchy with the order of the universe. This makes it looks as if God, as Radcliffe says, is fighting Himself. This is why I think Chesterton made Sunday seem like an enemy, while there was an unseen plan behind this. Like Job they could not understand what was going on, and even in the end they don’t fully comprehend.
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Sunday Symbolism

Postby Kanakaberaka » 11 Feb 2007, 00:17

This final chapter appears to be even more jam-packed with Christian symbolism than all the previous chapters. That quote where Sunday says. "I seem to remember only centuries of heroic war, in which you
were always heroes--epic on epic, iliad on iliad, and you always
brothers in arms..." ends with the mysterious phrase, "And when I met you in the daylight I denied it myself". Could this possibly be a reference to the Incarnation of Christ? Remember that "Sunday" claimed that he "...sat in the darkness, where there is not any created thing" untill meeting the "detectives" in the daylight. Jesus avoided calling attention to his divine origin in public.
The other Christian reference is the hornbill bird which Syme takes note of in this chaper as well as during the chase through the zoo. I remember hearing a radio sermon about the nesting habits of the hornbill. Apparently the female bird must pluck off much of her plumage and seal herself off in a hole in a tree trunk to incubate her eggs. The male of the species feeds the female through a small opening in the tree. The sacrifice of the female for her chicks is seen as an allegory of Christ's entombment, his descent into hell. When the mother hornbill and her chicks emerge months later it is seen as a reference to Christ's reserrection. So the hornbill was regarded as a Christian symbol.

Here's what one such hornbill looks like :

Image
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Re: Sunday Symbolism

Postby The Bigsleep J » 12 Feb 2007, 05:35

Kanakaberaka wrote:The other Christian reference is the hornbill bird which Syme takes note of in this chaper as well as during the chase through the zoo. I remember hearing a radio sermon about the nesting habits of the hornbill. Apparently the female bird must pluck off much of her plumage and seal herself off in a hole in a tree trunk to incubate her eggs. The male of the species feeds the female through a small opening in the tree. The sacrifice of the female for her chicks is seen as an allegory of Christ's entombment, his descent into hell. When the mother hornbill and her chicks emerge months later it is seen as a reference to Christ's reserrection. So the hornbill was regarded as a Christian symbol.


Wow! I know that Hornbills do this sort of thing, but I've never thought of it like that (in terms of symbolism in the story)! It is quite plausible.
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Shades of Narnia

Postby Kanakaberaka » 12 Feb 2007, 06:15

Interestingly there are curious references to objects I recall from Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia which make an appearance among the costumed revelers along with the hornbill -

There were a thousand other such objects, however.
There was a dancing lamp-post, a dancing apple tree, a dancing ship.


They had me thinking of the lamp-post in the forest from "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". The walled in magical apple tree from "The Magician's Nephew". And of course the ship had me thinking of the "Dawn Treader". Of course these are all probably coincidences, even if Lewis himself read this story before writing the Chronicles.
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