Saturday, May 05, 2007

TMWWT-Chapter Fifteen--Final Chapter

I've delayed writing about this last chapter, due to my reluctance to end this wonderful book. But, as I've started reading our next selection, The Poet and the Lunatics: Episodes in the Life of Gabriel Gale, and am enjoying it very much, I think it is time to conclude our study of The Man Who Was Thursday.

Well, many readers get to this chapter, finish the book, and then say, "What in the world just happened?" Did that happen to you?

I have the "Annotated" Thursday, so I get a lot of extra stuff at the back of my book. For example, Martin Gardner, the person who annotated the book, includes, in the Appendix, all of the explanations Chesterton himself offered, during his lifetime, of his book. These (he explained himself at least 5 different times) are enormously helpful. He wrote it, he knows what he meant. Of course, readers read into it what they may, and that's good. So these aren't exhaustive or exclusive.

So, back to chapter 15.

The beginning is very interesting, of the six guys making their way to their chairs. The descriptions are wonderful:
--a robe of starless black
--the perfect pattern of black and white expressed the soul of the Secretary
--no smell of ale or orchards could make the Secretary cease to ask a reasonable question (I love that!)
--Syme was a poet who always seeks to make the light in special shapes
--dressed as a windmill, an elephant, a balloon, all things they've seen along the way
--like a living question
which reminds me that ChesterTeens has a picture of a cuttlefish. I think you ought to see a hornbill as well, since it's mentioned several times in this book.

The seven great chairs reminds me of C.S. Lewis' four thrones in Narnia.

"But you are men. You did not forget your secret honour, through the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you. I knew how near you were to hell. I know how you, Thursday, crossed swords with Kind Satan, and how you, Wednesday, names me in the hour without hope."

and Syme's moment of truth:
"I see everything," he cried, "everything that there is. Why does each thing on tyhe earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? Why does a fly have to fight the whole universe? Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe? For the same reason that I had to be alone in the deardul Council of the Days..."

And then, the break where the dream ends...I mean the nightmare ends, and the story resumes. And the great ending, Syme "felt he was in possession of some impossible good news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality."

Wow. A great book. A great rip-roaring jaunt through one man's enormous imagination. Wouldn't you like to chat with Chesterton, just once?


  1. Yes I would LOVE to chat with Chesterton, it would be a fascinating and informative experience I'm sure.

    "felt he was in possession of some impossible good news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality." reminds me of the early Christians in particular the apostles who were on fire to spread the good news to the world.

    So we are still left with this question was it a dream or a real experience... or does it matter?

    And in case I haven't made it clear, I LOVE this book!!! Thank you for leading the discussion... I guess I'll have to go start The Poet and the Lunatics pretty soon.

  2. Wow, Ria - that link from TMWWT to the Pentecost thing was marvellous! I may have to come back to that come May 24 (or 31). And I think there's a TEM quote which would resonate well... I'll save that research for another day.

    I also would love to talk with GKC - and in a certain limited sense I have. And at ChesterCon you'll find out another way of talking with him. But for now we all have to wait until we meet in the Inn at the End of the World...

    But your pungent question about the end: may I ask: have you read Michael Ende's The Never-Ending Story? (Here I must insist: the book - not the movie.)

    There's something here, akin to the end of that book. Not exactly. And I don't want to go into detail for anyone who has not yet read TNES - which (like The Phantom Tollbooth) is very Chestertonian.

    But let me try to say one of the views I have:

    You know that feeling when you are REALLY into a story - and then you get to the end, and you close the book and are "back in the real world"? Well, GKC did the amazing literary trick of writing that "book-closing" feeling INTO his book. Gabriel Syme "wakes up" into a stroll with Lucian Gregory and spots our Rosamund (is that "rose-of-the-world"? perhaps a Marian touch?)

    The important thing is not whether the intervening chapters were "real" - but what effect that "experience" (of whatever kind) has made on our hero.

    Hence - we have just finished the book, and close it, and are back in the "real world" on our stroll with friends, perhaps even with important friends!


    Sometimes, I hear one very pungent line in TMWWT, over and over. It might be paraphrased like this:

    "You don't expect me," Gregory said, "to revolutionize society on this blogg?'

    Syme looked straight into his eyes and smiled sweetly. "No, I don't," he said; "but I suppose that if you were serious about your Chesterton, that is exactly what you would do."

    We need to start taking GKC seriously - and we will "revolutionize" society - in the Chestertonian way.

    --Dr. Thursday

  3. Ooo... missed something cool here. Let's not all get confused, now:

    TMWWT - Gabriel Syme
    P&L - Gabriel Gale

    Something common here about impossible good news? Hee hee.

    And Gabriel said, "And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God."
    [Luke 1:37]

  4. Well, many readers get to this chapter, finish the book, and then say, "What in the world just happened?" Did that happen to you?

    Yes, it most definitely happpened to me. So...I read the whole thing again. And then immediately after my second reading 911 happened. And then I knew what happened.

    And the great ending, Syme "felt he was in possession of some impossible good news, which made every other thing a triviality, but an adorable triviality."

    This, and Ria and Dr. T tying it in with Pentecost, reinforces more than ever my belief that Sunday is Christ. Yeah, I know that Chesterton said otherwise, but it is quite possible that Chesterton kept Sunday's real identity to himself, out of humility.

    Sunday is Jesus. There is no other way to really understand the story without understanding that.

  5. Yes, I had noticed that he liked the name Gabriel. And Michael as well, for a different sort of person. His Gabriels are poets and his Michaels are practical men(but practical like St. Francis, in the sense of men of action. It's probably not this cut and dried, though.

  6. "The Queen Of The Evening Star"

    Once upon a time seven children were out playing in the fields in the autumn evening after tea. And when they were tired of making nests in the hay-field and picking flowers in the lanes, they climbed up into a dark little wood between two hills, and sat down together to rest. And when they had been there some time, May, the eldest of the three girls said to her brother Gabriel, "Do you see the evening star? How near it looks to us, between the dark tree-stems."

    "The Modern Novelist"

    In another moment he presented himself, a slight angular lad, with red hair and high features. The savant had described him as Mr. Gabriel Hope. Mark described him as a dashed prig.

  7. Dr. Thursday,
    I have not read The Never-Ending Story, and I don't think we own it. Perhaps I shall have to go check it out at the library.

    Yes I do know the feeling of a different world although I never connected it to TMWWT before, nor did I think of the Rosamund, rosa mundi connection before... wow, very interesting.

    I agree, the important part isn't whether or not it was real, but how it impacted us.

    Very true, we should try to "revolutionize society", especially in a Chestertonian way, and a blog is not a bad place to start.

  8. Ria: I look forward to your comments on TNES - I am sure you will enjoy it!

    Gramps: thanks for the refs!

    Lucia: you have a good insight - there are hints that GKC does indeed use names in that way. Look at his comments on "Smith" for example. (in Heretics CW1:54-55)
    Chestertonian: sorry, I still don't agree - but one of these years you'll work it out and present it in a talk at a ChesterCon, which will be worth hearing.

    And one more note about Rosamund: yesterday I was looking for something else (as it ALWAYS occurs with AMBER) and just a few sentences away from what I wanted, I found this, speaking of a woman

    I confess, though I am as fond of the colour of life as another, I have sometimes had a weird complex of thoughts on seeing a dull dumpy woman, with an expressionless face, approaching me in a hat or coat of flaming crimson like a tremendous Turner sunset. I feel inclined to ask her, as if she were at a masquerade ball, what she is meant to be. Perhaps I do her a wrong. Perhaps she glows within with so glorious a charity, that she has a right to robe herself as the Rose of the World.
    [GKC, Chaucer CW18:195


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