Ryan Milbrath's Reviews > The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
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Aug 09, 11


G.K. Chesterton was an English writer during the 20th century. Many believe that he was philosophical and literary antithesis of George Bernard Shaw. Where Shaw expressed his positive opinions of socialism and other leftist ideas, Chesterton was an avid supporter of Christian ideals. Though both used satire to critique contemporary society, their conclusions were remarkably different. Chesterton, like Shaw as well, wrote over 800 varied pieces of literature (novels, essays, poems, etc.).

The Man Who Was Thursday begins as a simple detective tale with the main character, Gabriel Syme, undergoing a mission to infiltrate an anarchist cell. When he is elected to a council of anarchists he discovers that the movement is being headed by a seemingly terrible man only known by the day of the week: Sunday. Each anarchist represents a day of the week and is described by Syme as possessing some inherent quality that makes them repulsive. As Syme later discovers, each anarchist, including Sunday is an undercover policeman like himself. At the end, Chesterton gives no explanation as to why Sunday had each policeman fight each other, but argues that the entire experience was about suffering. Much like Jesus suffered for man, the Christian ideal is to suffer before reaping the reward of the afterlife.

Chesterton’s work is a combination of Dickens, Shaw and Oscar Wilde. In fact, the language that he uses seems straight out of Great Expectations or Bleak House. The Man Who Was Thursday, is a debate on anarchy versus order and nihilism versus Christianity. Chesterton seems to comment that the destruction of society through anarchy will not come from the common people, but rather the rich bourgeoisie who have turned their backs on God. Though not as bluntly opinionated as his other work, Chesterton, created thrilling story, while still maintaining his metaphysical opinions. Though I may not entirely agree with them, I can appreciate the story for what it is: a modern day allegory for those unwilling to read Pilgrim’s Progress.
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