Saturday, February 17, 2007

TMWWT-Chapter Two--The Wild Joy of Being Thursday!

Chapter Two takes up deep, deep, deep into the subterranean world of the anarchist's hidyhole. Guns, bomb, rifles and weapons line the walls like artistic metal sculptures on wallpaper. The two principles drop down into the hole like Alice in Wonderland. And our angel Gabriel reveals his deep dark secret. Why? Why does he tell his secret?

Questions: When they get to the restaurant, why does the table have one wooden leg? What are the other three, metal? plastic?

Dream evidence: "I don't often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the other way."

Anti-Dream evidence: "You are not asleep, I assure you..."

Cute: They aren't just anarchists, they are "serious" anarchists.

Sarcastic wit: "Oh don't apologize," said Syme, "I know your passion for law and order..."

Best line which describes those like-minded souls of today: "We hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong." (Although today, don't you think? they love rights, as long as it is the right to do wrong.)

Why does Gregory feel Syme is almost like his mother?

Syme carries a sword stick, and wears a heavy looking cloak or cape. Is Syme Chesterton? Does he sound like Chesterton? Does he talk like Chesterton? Does he think like Chesterton?

Now, I'm looking for the funniest line. What is you opinion? Mine is the one above about Gregory having a passion for law and order (when he's hoping to be elected to the Council for Chaos!)


  1. I always thought the table was one that had but one leg in the center, which concealed the screw that worked the elevator.

    It is part of the irony of the whole story that the anarchists are rigidly organized. Even those who seek to destroy life must use life to do it. There is no evil so evil that it can function independent of good.

  2. One of my favorite lines (I'm terrible at picking favorites) is after Gregory said that the anarchists had abolished right and wrong. Syme responds "And right and left? I hope you will ablish them too, they are much more troublesome to me."(Roughly quoted).

  3. Ria, "favourite" when applied to a GKC quote may often be a thing of the moment, since it is the line which is most suitable to the issue, or thought, at hand; in a sense, the trademark of a real Chestertonian is that his favourite quote is the line he is reading (or has just finished reading)! Hee hee.

    And I beg to present you with the proper GKC form for excusing yourself when you don't have the book with you. You merely say (perhaps preceded by a deep rumbling sound) "(Ahem!) I quote from memory."

    And here you refer to a very deep - yes, fundamental point of philosophy. Yes, in fact it would be easier to abolish right and left (which are just a cleverness of our dimensions) than to abolish right and wrong: God didn't have to "invent" the physical directions, but once He "invented" free will, there must always be "right and wrong". The really funny thing about this chirality is that many things in their physical reality have a "handedness" - like sugar (why is one kind called dextrose???) and magentism, and all sorts of things.

    Yes, after all, our esteemed blogg-mistress did ask for funny lines.

    "A kind of screw! How simple that is!" A great pun here, since the screw is one of the six simple machines. It makes me think of that line in the first Harry Potter book, which convinced me that JKR was following JRRT. After telling us how Mr. Durstley worked at Grunnings, which made drill bits, she tells us how he "picked out his most boring tie" - my mother heard me laughing and knew it was going to be an interesting book. Hee hee. And both HP1 and Hobbit started on a Tuesday...

    Then there is this line: "That way you have of lighting a cigar would make a priest break the seal of confession."

    And this:

    'Why is it,' Syme asked vaguely, 'that I think you are quite a decent fellow? Why do I positively like you, Gregory?' He paused a moment, and then added with a sort of fresh curiosity, 'Is it because you are such an ass?'

    [Does this somehow relate to the - ah - might we call it "Franciscan" vein which pervades GKC's work? The right/left, right/wrong, just as surely arise from the Thomistic vein. Or perhaps artery. Hee hee.]

    But then the funniest line of all is this: "Oh, the wild joy of being Thursday!" GKC had to bring this up in his autobiography, where he mentions how people got confused about the title:

    Some, referring to my supposed festive views, affected to mistake it for "The Man Who Was Thirsty." Others naturally supposed that Man Thursday was the black brother of Man Friday. Others again, with more penetration, treated it as a mere title out of topsy-turveydom; as if it had been "The Woman Who Was Half-past Eight," or "The Cow Who Was Tomorrow Evening."

    And this idea of "being Thursday" as odd as it sounds, is NOT the reason for my pen name here, though it chimes well with the book we are reading.

    Paradoxically yours,
    Dr. Thursday

    PS: (1) I may still show up anonymously once in a while, as time permits.

    PS: (2) I also forgot to mention how this line from the first chapter reminds me of JRRT's Two Trees of Valinor: present you only see the tree by the light of the lamp. I wonder when you would ever see the lamp by the light of the tree...

  4. I love the end of Chapter two where Syme tells Gregory he is a police Detective. When I first read the book several years ago I knew nothing of the story, my copy is a old hard cover without a dust jacket or synopsis, so Syme's surprise caught me off guard as well.
    I thought it was great, I loved the amount of cheek Syme has throughout this chapter: with his lines like "I know your passion for law and order" and the line about abolishing right and left. The surprise at the end was just the icing on the cake for all the cheeky jabs Syme had give through-out the chapter.
    Syme reminded of Wesley from the "princess bride", fair hair, somewhat meek personality but just filled with confidence and cheek. Syme is my favourite GKC character for all those reasons.
    And about his name, Syme is a shortened variant of Simson, which comes from Sim, which comes from Simon, and Simon means to Hearken. So Gabriel (after the messenger angel) and Syme which means to hearken. A real messenger.


  5. Regarding Adam's off-hand remark that there was no dust jacket and therefore no synopsis, there's Chesterton's poem "Commercial Candor" with the repeating refain "The back of the cover will tell you the plot."

  6. This has nothing directly to do with TMWWT. However, Dr. T mentioned JRRT twice. I consider it one of the great tragedies of 20th century literature that Chesterton died just a few months before The Hobbit was published (if I remember correctly that it was published in 1936 -- if it was published in '37 or '38, I apologize).

    It is tragic because I would just LOVE to read the ILN essay or book review that Chesterton might have written of that book.

  7. Did Chesterton and JRRT ever meet? Did Chesterton write anything about JRRT's other work?

  8. I am ready to stand corrected, but Chesterton did not comment on Tolkien. The Hobbit was published in 1937. Chesterton died in 1936. Tolkien's academic writings during the 1920s and early 30s did not capture Chesterton's attention, so far as I know.
    ~ Gramps

  9. Gramps is right. It is unlikely that Chesterton ever heard of Tolkien. However, Tolkien of course knew of Chesterton and admired his writing quite a bit. In fact, Chesterton's epic poem, The Ballad of the White Horse, is one of the things that inspired a teenaged Tolkien to pursue his burgeoning interest in his own ancestral languages, particularly the Middle English of the English West Midlands. Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis both could recite long stretches of BtoWH by heart.

    There is a good story about Tolkien and Chesterton's best friend, Hilaire Belloc. Dale told me of it, and he read it in the autiobiography of an Oxford don who knew Tolkien (sorry, forget the don's name). The don wrote about one occasion when Belloc came to give a lecture at Oxford, and his subject was how the Anglo Saxons had contributed nothing worthwhile to English history, culture, or language. Now, "sittin in front of me," the don wrote, "was the man who was probably the world's formost authority on all things Anglo-Saxon." As Belloc continued to press his point, the don kept expecting this other professor to rise and say something, to challenge Belloc. But he just sat there. The don continued: "Finally, I leaned forward and asked him, 'Are you hearing what this man is saying? Aren't you going to say anything?'"

    According to the don, Professor Tolkien turned around and said, "I would not presume to debate Hilaire Belloc in anything unless I had all my notes right in front of me."


  10. Hee hee. Thanks "C" - a superb story about HB & JRRT - we need to get that reference.

    Indeed! The story of the GKC - JRRT connection is yet to be told.... and (after July 21, 2007) it will have to include the JKR connection as well.

    And, to bolster the discussion, I have just found another link from GKC to JRRT, which (if I recall) ties together Dickens and (of all people) Bilbo Baggins... Remember how JRRT notes that there was comparatively little to tell of the happy and pleasant times Bilbo spent in Rivendell, compared with the long details of the struggles through the mines of the Orcs (here we have the PC term "goblins") or the dark and spidery and interminable Mirkwood? Yes, I thought you would recall this. Behold this line of GKC:

    There are twenty tiny minor poets who can describe fairly impressively an eternity of agony; there are very few even of the eternal poets who can describe ten minutes of satisfaction.

    [GKC, Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens CW15:311]

    Which reminds me that it's Lent now, and I ought to begin my seasonal reading of the saga of Middle Earth. You will note that the Church celebrates Easter for a longer time than Lent, as she is surely one of those "eternal poets". (Yes, my dear Bilbo, there is no such thing as a different subject, GKC said, puffing on his pipe.)

    --Dr. Thursday

  11. In a letter to Amy Ronald, dated November 16, 1969, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, "What a dreadful, fear-darkened, sorrow-laden world we live in -- especially for those who have also the burden of age, whose friends and all they es-pecially care for are afflicted in the same way. Chesterton once said that it is our duty to keep the Flag of This World flying: but it takes a sturdier and more sublime patriotism than it did then." (Letters of Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981, p. 402)


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