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Michial Farmer discusses G.K. Chesterton’s weird 1908 novel The Man Who Was Thursday with David Grubbs and Nathan Gilmour.

2 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode 301: The Man Who Was Thursday”
  1. Gonna disagree with Nathan about the novel making the detectives out to be as foolish as the anarchists. Near the end, Sunday explicitly honors certain of the detectives’ virtues: “You did not forget your secret honor, though the whole cosmos turned an engine of torture to tear it out of you… I know how you, Thursday, crossed swords with King Satan, and how you, Wednesday, named me in the hour without hope.” Sunday sees something praiseworthy in their internal postures, if that image makes sense – in their good-faith dedication to the struggle against evil – even if the specific circumstances rendered their actions ridiculous. It *means* something that Syme arrived at Sunday’s garden having kept his word with Gregory in spite of numerous temptations to break it; it means something that the detectives held out hope to the very end when they thought the world had turned against them. Syme’s final speech seems to support this: “Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? […] So that each man fighting for order may be as brave and good a man as the dynamiter” – the implication being that the heroic character of their adventure and their willingness to struggle and die, alone if necessary, for a higher cause, were (in some way) authentically and meaningfully good. And the text seems to treat Syme’s speech as a moment of epiphany.

    1. I think that’s a good read on the conclusion GKC reaches, and I find it satisfying. I think Nathan doesn’t find this fantastic theodicy (groping for a phrase) as satisfying, though, and tends to poke at the places it might be creaky—namely, where the paradoxical illusion of the world obscures the distinctions of faction and leaves all our heroes behaving rather foolishly, even if we do not find them ultimately to be fools. However, Nathan can give his own two-cents if he wishes!

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