Saturday, March 10, 2007

TMWWT-Chapter Ten

The Duel

Good lines: His spirits were already unnaturally high; the rose as the Saumur sank (Saumur being a kind of wine)
...a torrent of nonsense...
Syme only needs to break the ice between himself and the man he wishes to kill...
Syme was subject to spasms of simgular common sense... (I wish *I* were!)
Colonel DuCroix wants to fight for civilisation.
...the whole bally lot on the Anarchist Council were against anarchy!

Dictionary: Recondite

Dream/weather references: Now the spring flowers are knee-deep.

Nightmarishness: How, during the duel, the Marquis doesn't bleed. Syme concludes he must be the devil. The nose coming off in his hand. His face peeling off.

And now there are two. Sunday and the Crooked Smile.


  1. One of the funniest bits in the book is here, where Syme is explaining what he will do:

    'I shall approach. Before taking off his hat, I shall take off my own. I shall say, "The Marquis de Saint Eustach, I believe." He will say, "The celebrated Mr. Syme, I presume." He will say in the most exquisite French, "How are you?" I shall reply in the most exquisite cockney, "Oh, just the Syme - "

    Then right after this, there is something else, very Chestertonian:

    'Oh, shut it,' said the man in spectacles. 'Pull yourself together, and chuck away that bit of paper. What are you really going to do?'

    'But it was a lovely catechism,' said Syme pathetically. 'Do let me read it you. It has only forty-three questions and answers, and some of the Marquis's answers are wonderfully witty. I like to be just to my enemy.'

  2. Yes, these are great lines, both of them. Thanks, Anon (Dr. T?)

  3. I love the part about writing the conversation in advance. I've done that (at least mentally) myself, but alas, the other party never *does* follow my script.

  4. yes that Syme joke was me. I forgot to sign it.

    Thank you just the Syme, hee hee.

    --Dr. Thursday.

  5. Carrots:
    I love that part, too. I've done it (in my mind), too, and naturally, the real conversation never works out the way I plan it. But it is fun to try!

  6. The beginning of this chapter never fails to make me laugh ^__^...The utter absurdity both of the catechism conversation and the one that actually transpires is quite spectacular. The outcome of the duel has a similar effect, when the Marquis is calmly peeling off his face 'while the sun and the clouds and wooded hills looked down upon this imbecile scene.'

    Another reference to dreams: "When the jar of the joined iron ran up Syme's arm, all the fantastic fears that have been the subject of this story fell from him like dreams from a man waking up in bed. ...He saw that these fears were fancies, for he found himself in the presence of the great fact of the fear of death, with its coarse and pitiless common sense."

    Also, a quote expressing what I guess we might call a Chestertonian theme: "Syme had the feeling he had more than once had in these adventures -- the sense that a horrible and sublime wave lifted to heaven was just toppling over. Walking in a world he half understood, he took two paces forward..."

    And one of my favorite TMWWT quotes: "He felt a strange and vivid value in all the earth around him, in the grass under his feet; he felt the love of life in all living things. He could almost fancy that he heard the grass growing; he could almost fancy that even as he stood fresh flowers were springing up and breaking into blossom in the meadow..."

    Anyway, this is one of my favorite chapters because it encompasses so many TMWWT themes: the hilarious wit, the nightmarish fears of a duel with an untouchable enemy and the surreal quality of a man solemnly pulling his face off, the very real fear of death coupled with the sudden, overwhelming love for the beauty of life, the topsyturvydom of a world we know not of; and through it all, Syme standing firm in this dreamworld, ready with all his courage and common sense to fight to the death...

    "perhaps [the Marquis] was the Devil!...When Syme had that thought he drew himself up, and all that was good in him sang high up in the air as a high wind sings in the trees. He thought of all the human things in his story .... Perhaps he had been chosen as a champion of all these fresh and kindly things to cross swords with the enemy of all creation."
    It reminds me of chapter 6, when Syme first joins the council: "he did feel himself as the ambassador of all these common and kindly people in the street, who every day marched into battle to the music of the barrel-organ. And this high pride in being human had lifted him unaccountably to an infinite height above the monstrous men around him. ... He felt towards them all that unconscious and elementary superiority that a brave man feels over powerful beasts or a wise man over powerful errors. He knew that he had neither the intellectual nor the physical strength of President Sunday; but ...all was swallowed up in an ultimate certainty that the President was wrong and that the barrel-organ was right.... It was his last triumph over these lunatics to go down into their dark room and die for something that they could not even understand."

    This seems like a really important concept to Chesterton, the idea of standing even in a nightmare and fighting for the commonplace, the human, the good things in the world...

    Sorry for the reeeally long comment. I just get excited when I'm discussing Chesterton ^__^

  7. "simgular common sense" (???)

    I wonder, Nancy, if that was just a simple typo, or rather an attempt at revealing "Symgular common sense." ;-)

    (or should that be a "Symple typo"?)


  8. Great points Syme! (and others too) This really is a delightful chapter.

    Here are a few more favorite parts I had to share...

    "I regret to inform you," said Syme with restraint, "that your remarks convey no impression to my mind. Perhaps if you were to remove the remains of your original forehead and some portion of what was once your chin, your meaning would become clearer. Mental lucidity fulfils itself in many ways..."


    The younger secton of the Marquis says...

    "Of course, I accept the apology; but you will in your turn forgive me if I decline to follow you further into your difficulties, and permit myself to say good morning! The sight of an acquaintance and distinguished fellow-townsman coming to pieces in the open air is unusual, and upon the whole, sufficient for one day."

  9. Ooops, that should be "second" not "secton". :)


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