Saturday, July 22, 2006

Thunderclap or Ahh-Haaa! moments in The Everlasting Man

Up from the combox.

If you've read The Everlasting Man, what were the points, if you would be so kind as to point them out, where your mind just reeled, or your mind opened up as never before, or you saw everything more clearly; and also, where was it muddy, where did you get bogged down, where did you wish if only someone could explain this?

I would be interested to know.


  1. +JMJ+

    I will never forget the moment I read the following, which I became able to quote from memory instantly:

    If the world becomes pagan and perishes, the last man left alive would do well to quote the Iliad and die.

    When I came to that part . . . How can I describe it? It was really like someone had emptied a bucket of cold water over me. It was such a huge thing to say, if you know what I mean--and I knew that it was, even though I didn't understand what it meant. I had never read the Iliad; and at that time, my Classical I.Q. was in the single digits. Yet it was as if the world had suddenly become bigger and life had become more exciting.

    Oh, am I making any sense? :S

  2. I began my Chesterton experience with TEM and struggled at the outset. When I got to the chapter entitled The God in the Cave, I could feel the Spirit speaking to me through Chesterton's prose. I still feel a shiver when I read:

    "A mass of legend and literature, which increases and will never end, has repeated and rung the changes on that single paradox; that the hands that made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle. Upon this paradox, we might almost say upon this jest, all the literature of our faith is founded. It is at least like a jest in this; that it is something which the scientific critic cannot see. He laboriously explains the difficulty which we have always defiantly and almost derisively exaggerated; and mildly condemns as improbable something that we have almost madly exalted as incredible; as something that would be much too good to be true, except that it is true."

    I often pass out a copy of TEM to those I think might be receptive and tell them to push through until they get to this portion of the book and then reread the beginning, particularly the Man in the Cave chapter.

    This paragraph has also become a part of our family's Christmas letter. I consider it something of a gift from GKC and a personal focus of prayer and faith.

  3. +JMJ+

    I just remembered another one, from the same epic chapter: it even has the word "thunderclap" in it!

    A later legend, an afterthought but not an accident, said that stragglers from Troy founded a republic on the Italian shore. It was true in spirit that republican virtue had such a root. A mystery of honour, that was not born of Babylon or the Egyptian pride, there shone like the shield of Hector, defying Asia and Africa; till the light of a new day was loosened, with the rushing of the eagles and the coming of the name; the name that came like a thunderclap when the world woke to Rome.

    How can I explain what I felt upon reading that? It was as if a whole army were massed outside my window, with trumpets sounding and banners waving, ready to march to war.

  4. Speaking of whole armies massed outside your window, here is an other "thunderclap passage":

    But it was not the strange story to which anybody paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was really a part of their little system; and about what they said. However mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor's statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal had fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock.

  5. I think it comes at the end of the chapter Chestertonian quotes above, "Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock." Much originally hit me hard, especially the God in the Cave chapter. BUt what stays is a phrase "the halo of hatred around the Church of God" (or something close to that ) which, IIRC follows the bit from Chestertonian.

    Elaine T.

  6. I'm working on my first read through right now. It's funny because for awhile I kept picking it up and starting it over because I couldn't remember exactly what I had read even though I liked what I had read - perhaps especially because I remembered liking what I read but had lost the train of thought (comes from being a mom with lots distractions).

    I got especially bogged down in "The Antiquity of Civilisation". Perhaps it would help to either: break it up into sub-sections with their own sub-titles or include a short description of what's happening in that part at the top of each page (like they do in some Bibles). Does that make sense?

  7. I have this passage permanently bookmarked. It stirs powerful feelings in me that I still can't put into words.

    "On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn."

  8. +JMJ+

    That's another good one from Brad! I also remember the quote Elaine shared about the hatred ringing the new Church of Christ (I'm paraphrasing!): after reading that line, I had to stop and take a very deep breath. Brilliant prose!

    To answer the other part of your question, Nancy, I remember getting very bogged down whenever Uncle Gilbert wrote about Roman history. My education in that area was less than ideal, so I had to keep consulting an encyclopedia in order to figure out what he was saying.

  9. This is so helpful, thanks everyone!

    Now start (or keep) thinking about where you got bogged down, because I'm going to ask that next, so that we can make sure the "Annotated" has good helps for those areas. L2LMom, yours is a great suggestion.

    I hope you all know that you are helping to make future Chestertonians with this project, and for that, we sincerely thank you.


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