Wednesday, February 21, 2007

TMWWT-Chaper Four

Chapter Four contains the "back story" of how Syme became a detective. Rather stumbled into it, not unlike how he stumbled into becoming Thursday?

I found it funny that Syme turns out to rebel against rebellion because of his parents....just when those parents thought they were being so liberal and everything.

Funny Stuff: What Syme calls "undenominational education." When the policeman says, "outbreaks of the human will." The fact that an assassination was stopped because a detective understood a "triolet." The policeman calls what they do an "army against anarchy." The outer ring are "mere anarchists" (rings a CS Lewis bell doesn't it?), that is: men who believe that rules and formulas have destroyed human happiness. Chesterton must have talked to my brother-in-law.

When Chesterton writes that Syme "went forth to track and fight the enemy in all the drawing-rooms of London," somehow, it sounds like he's describing himself.

Why does the mysterious chief of the Anarchy-Detecting Police Secret Group say to Syme "I am condemning you to death"?


  1. Personally, I take the "I am condemning you to death" line to reflect the passage "He that loses his life shall save it..." and vice-versa. That theme is used again in The Ball and the Cross.

  2. "I am condemning you to death" could also mean, "I am giving you life, and your life will end in death," i.e., this is a life sentence, a battle that will last until death. When God brings each of us forth (in this fallen world) he is condemning each of us to death.

    Note also that not only is there the innocent outer ring of naive anarchists, there is the "supremely guilty" inner ring, the people who hate life itself. This is not just hyperbole. I have seen it in the Episcopalian sect, for instance - the folk in the pews are well-intentioned although misguided, but those doing the misguiding are quite deliberately and culpably pro-death.

    I was an infiltrator of their inner cirle as Syme was, in a way, so I know whereof I speak.

  3. The condemning to death bit also is reminescent of Manalive, the scene where Innocent Smith figures out how to deal life out of his revolver.

    Syme in that scene is like any of us who suddenly finds his vocation: we have no idea how it is we're to carry it out, but must rely on grace. And humility. Think of Frodo when he finally agrees to take up the Ring: "I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way," he says. Syme's reaction in the pitch dark room is similar. Whether we're getting married or getting ordained to the priesthood, none of us really knows what we're getting into, and none of us unaided is capable of seeing it through to the end. We must rely on Grace. Think of the end when Wednesday is commended because he "named me in the hour without hope." It is no different for any of us when we reach the uttermost extremes of our human capabilities.

  4. I love the way the policeman on the embankment, who was educated at one of the most exclusive schools in England, considers himself, simply and without melodrama, to be unworthy for the relatively humble and lower-middle-class role of policeman. It is a typically Chestertonian point about the great significance of ordinary things.

  5. I took the condemnation to death comment literally--as the man telling Syme that he would never come out of this job alive.


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