The Man Who was Thursday; a Nightmare by G. K. Chersterton

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I live with a toddler. And as any parent can tell you, toddlers have a way of putting their mark in every area of the life of his or her guardians. I have stomped on Noah and his entire ark stumbling through the living room at night. I have found my wife’s shoes in the trash, and I have been pulled out of bed before 7 a.m. on a Saturday for no particular reason. Little fingers have poked me in the mouth, the nose, the ears, and in the eyes. Bodily fluids are really not that big of a deal anymore.

Among other areas of parenthood, Pixar movies have become part of a almost daily routine. My skill is not perfected yet, but I can almost quote Cars by heart. I am becoming a student of the clever cartoon genre, and I have found that these stories have some common characteristics.

First of all and most obviously, the Pixar movies have a deeply rooted sense of humor that can be appreciated among a wide range of ages. Secondly, each story contains a huge adventure. How memorable are those vast blue depths that Marlin crosses to find his beloved Nemo? Or the dangerous, tropical island of The Incredibles? Lastly, each Pixar story features a conglomeration of unlikely companions. Buzz and Woody, the circus bugs of A Bug’s Life, Wall-E and Eva… (I can do this all day.)

I was once mandated to read a short story by G. K. Chesterton in college, and though I remember enjoying the story I cannot recall the title. What stayed with me though is that Chesterton preceded and influenced the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and other members of the Inklings. As a fan of the latter, I sought to become better acquainted with the former.

When I picked up The Man Who Was Thursday, I was expecting a story that was somewhat slow paced with staunchy details that I just assume (probably incorrectly) of a novel written at the turn of the twentieth century. G. K. Chesterton showed me otherwise. In fact, Chesterston’s story, though full of philosophy, would have made a great Pixar movie.

The story begins with two poets arguing in a city park. One declares the glory of anarchy while the other argues that law and order is in fact more poetic. From Chesterton’s character descriptions, I immediately pictured two cartoonish figures like those in the short film, One Man Band, arguing their philosophical points in the open public.

After the anarchist poet is challenged in his statements and the other is sworn to secrecy, the anarchist reveals that he really does belong to a society of anarchy that is planning some sort of bombing. He even brings the other poet to their layer to prove his claims. After swearing the anarchist to secrecy and immediately before the rest of the secret society arrives for a meeting, the second poet reveals that he is part of a police squad dedicated to seek out destructive philosophies and in particular, anarchists.

So the stage then is set in a some what humorous way to have a policeman sworn not to go to the police in the middle of a meeting of anarchists, and the one anarchist who knows that he is a policeman is sworn to not tell anyone. You can see the animated connection that came to mind.

As the story progresses, the policeman poet Syme is elected within the Anarchists ranks as Thursday where each of the men of authority is named after a day of the week. Sunday, the frightful president of the anarchist counsel, is portrayed as some figure of demi-god and a dreadful villain.

What we learn in time, though, is that the counsel is actually a conglomeration of under cover policemen all pretending to be anarchists and all there to spy on each other. Once this revelation has been made, the team enters a chased-and-be-chased sequence with Sunday who becomes more frightful and terrible throughout.

Then the end… Well, I won’t give it away, but it probably is not what you expect. Probably not the ending that Pixar would have picked.

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However, Chesterton was not trying to make some money selling a soft feel good story to some children. His fanciful and incredible story is riddled with convoluted paradoxes and biblical allusions that all convince the reader to find some deeper meaning.

What Chesterton was attempting to point out seems to be a topic of debate, but he was determined to make it remembered that “a Nightmare” was the subtitle. Some feel that Chesterton wanted to show that faith cannot be fortified without being tested, a purged by fire metaphor. Though you can build some evidence to support this thought (and I am no literary expert), I am still not convinced that was Chesterton’s message. Truthfully, just as I am still seeking for the deeper meaning of Wall-E, I am still pondering over the writing of Chesterton.

Interestingly written and honestly humorous, I was pleasantly surprised by The Man Who was Thursday. I am still digesting the events that occurred through the nightmare, but even on the shallowest level this is a story to be enjoyed.

Pages: 145 FOA Pages: 18,215

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