Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TMWWT-Chapter Thirteen

The Pursuit of the President

Now one of the fantastic things about this chapter is that previously, we had the impression that Sunday was ponderous, over-sized, heavy and elephantine. Here, in chapter thirteen, he's running around like an athlete or a circus performer or a really fast elephant (a Chestertonian paradox?).

At Chesterteens, there was some discussion of the mysterious notes Sunday throws back at the detectives. They seem to conclude that the notes are meant to confuse and are nonsensical. Do you agree?

Great lines: If they were harmless officers, what was Sunday? (notice "what" not "who")
If he had not seized the world, what on earth had he been up to?
I confess that I should feel a bit afraid of asking Sunday who he really is.
Why? for fear of bombs?
No, for fear he might tell me.

We are six men going to ask one man what he means.
I think it is six men going to ask one man what they mean.

Humor: Candidates are only required to answer to eight out of the seventeen questions on the paper.
The scene in the zoo.
Nature was always making quite mysterious jokes. He wondered whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.
The heavy Sunday escaping in a balloon.

You will understand the sea, and I shall be still a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I am.

And another surprise, this time about Sunday's identity.


  1. This is the chapter -- with Sunday's quotes about still being a riddle and the descriptions of the animals in the zoo -- where the inspiration of The Book of Job is most evident.

  2. "The heavy Sunday escaping in a balloon."

    Er... Sunday can fly because he can take himself lightly. (hee hee)

  3. You mean Sunday angel?

  4. How is the inspiration of the Book of Job evident?

  5. Actually at ChesterTeens we haven't yet figured out whether or not the notes are nonsensical though we are all very confused as to what they might mean and would be grateful for any explanations, complete, partial or hypothetical, of the matter.

    And as for Sunday, the contrast indeed does seem rather absurd but if I remember correctly, one of the detectives, Dr. Bull I think it was, describes Sunday as similar to a balloon in the next chapter.

  6. I love the series of paradoxical descriptions of Sunday...

    "He had not seen it literally because it was too large to see. At the nearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of the perspective, was the back of a great mountain of a man." (ch. 5)

    "...said the President in a deep voice at once of quietude and volume..." (ch. 5)

    "...except the President's horrible, happy laughter..." (ch. 5)

    "He might have been called something above man, with his large plans, which were too obvious to be detected, with his large face, which was too frank to be understood." (ch. 6)

    "Don't you know that his jokes are always so big and simple that one has never thought of them?" (ch. 10)

    I think these do point to this quote from the current chapter about the "riddle"...

    "But I tell you this, that you will have found out the truth of the last tree and the topmost cloud before the truth about me. You will understand the sea, and I shall be still a riddle; you shall know what the stars are, and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have hunted me like a wolf - kings and sages, and poets and law-givers, all the churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never been caught yet, and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a good run for their money, and I will now."

  7. RE: "a really fast elephant":

    Actually they can go rather fast, for such big creatures: the top speed of the Indian Elephant Elephas maximus "can exceed 30 m.p.h." [Morris, The Mammals 338]

    RE: Job and the questions:

    See Ch 38-40, where (for example) God asks Job: "By what way is the light spread, and heat divided upon the earth?" [38:24]

    Also with this is to be compared the hilarious encounter of the atheist Turnbull with a lunatic who thinks he is God, in GKC's The Ball and the Cross:

    Turnbull: "Why does a rose have thorns? Why do rhinoceroses have horns? Why is the horn on the top of the nose? Why haven't I a horn on the top of my nose, eh?"


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