Weekly G.K.: The Man who was Thursday


The Man who was Thursday is one of G.K. Chesterton’s most famous books. It is a novel about the fight between anarchy and order. The book was first published in 1908 and is subtitled A Nightmare. It is in fact somewhat of a nightmare with it’s semi-dark theme of anarchism.

When many people hear of anarchism in this book they think of anti-government wackos who bomb buildings and such. The anarchism in this book is what is called “philosophical anarchism” and is mostly that they are enemies against God and all that is sane and right. They want to take down it all and see it burn. Their enemy is God and they want him down for the count… and that is where Gabriel Syme comes in. He is a believer in common sense. A man of great passion for what he believes in but keeps his cool and wit in a debate.

Gabriel Syme walks into Saffron Park (the scene of the first chapter) and begins a debate with the anarchist poet Lucian Gregory. This debate lasts for a while and after that they go off together and Lucian tells Gabriel that he is an anarchist and is going to a meeting to get himself elected to the Central Council of Anarchists (and all the people on the Council are named after the days of the week) but before he Gabriel this he makes him swear not to tell the police anything. Little does Lucian know but Gabriel is a part of the anti-anarchist police force. They go to the meeting and Gabriel makes Lucian promise not to tell his secret that he is a policeman. They are stuck because Gabriel cannot tell the police about Lucian and Lucian cannot tell the anarchists about Gabriel. Instead of Lucian getting elected to the council Gabriel does (gaining the name Thursday, hence the title) with a stirring anarchist speech… and the story goes on from there.

I am not going to give away the rest of the story… you will just have to read it yourself. The rest of the book is full of many surreal adventures.

The anarchists in this book are like the terrorists of our time. They are fanatical in their beliefs and use violence to get their way. They plan bombings and assassinations and carry them out with fluid efficiency. The only thing different is that they are the enemy of God.

This is a great book and a good starting point for beginning G.K. Chesterton readers. It is full of his wit, paradox, and of course humor. The humor is very great and you will laugh every time you read this book. This book is meant to give hope that there is good and the world and that we cannot give up and just let evil take over.

Famous Quotes:

Gabriel Syme (The hero)

“Don’t you see we’ve checkmated each other? […] I can’t tell the police you are an anarchist. You can’t tell the anarchists I’m a policeman.”

“[…] always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce else can you do?”

Wilks de Worms (Friday on the Council of Anarchists, talking to Gabriel about taking down the President of the Council of Anarchists)

“Young man, I am amused to observe that you think I am a coward. As to that I shall say only one word, and it will be entirely in the manner of your own philosophical rhetoric. You think it is impossible to pull down the President. I know it is impossible, and I am going to try it.”

Next week we will be talking about some of his philosophy… so get ready.

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