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The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton Essay

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Updated: Nov 17th, 2021

Introduction

The Man Who Was Thursday, like most of the fiction works written by Chesterton, is a tale rich with allegory symbolic of the Christian religion. Many followers of Chesterton have claimed that the story is designed as an allegory due to the high amount of symbolism. However, this is not truly the case. It cannot be a Christian allegory in the classical sense because the story openly discusses Christianity, while it cannot be an allegory for generalized good and evil for many reasons. The fans and followers of Chesterton must have analysed his work so much that they have both found and enjoyed all of the symbolism that is there, and have likely also found symbolism that is either not truly there or was not meant to be conveyed as such. While this story does in fact contain enough real symbolism and implications which can be drawn from analogies to various elements of the story, it certainly was not intended to be an allegory in the classical sense.

Main body

At first it may appear to some the book is an obvious and clear allegory. The main story is a mystery story which discusses detectives and spies and related traditional activities among such people. Not understanding a great deal about the story near the beginning of the story, the reader is provided with new surprises often and goes on somewhat of an adventurous journey throughout the tale. One thing that becomes most seemingly symbolic is the anarchists. Free will can be associated to anarchy as well are the inherent results and consequences. In the story, the anarchists’ roles are described in the passage “I can’t tell the police you are an anarchist. You can’t tell the anarchists I’m a policeman. I can only watch you, knowing what you are; you can only watch me, knowing what I am.

In short, it’s a lonely, intellectual duel, my head against yours. I’m a policeman deprived of the help of the police. You, my poor fellow, are an anarchist deprived of the help of that law and organisation which is so essential to anarchy. The one solitary difference is in your favour.” (Chesterton pg.1) One can see the symbolic relations within this passage, where the anarchists have free will but also a lack of freedom. The detectives also seem to be symbolic, in this case of the government, while the civil sphere and related problems are also parts of this symbolic relationship. Near the finish, both bodies are switched around as a main figure involving both parties comes to light. These two main components of symbolism revolve around the majority of adventures and serious events of the story.

It would appear that the story is commonly regarded as an allegory by Chesterton’s so-called followers among others. Chesterton himself apparently intended to express his ideas through a great deal of symbolism without the inherent lack or interest and excitement which is commonly missing in such types of stories. The detective and spy elements allowed Chesterton to express himself and his ideas in a religiously symbolic allegory while maintaining interest as spy and crime stories seem to appeal to a larger number of people. Actually, the core of the symbolic relationships which are the allegory and nightmare of that some elements of the story can be perceived by are referred to as the more shallow surface meanings in the tale. However it is the deeper design of the symbolism as a whole that provides the story with such a profound sense of purpose and sense of urgency for any reader that discovers an interest in the overall points the author is implying and making.

The Christian relationships, as well as symbolism of spiritual good and evil, is evident through the plot as well as the characters and story. In fact, the entire world created by the author appears to be some form of direct meaningful Christianity that can be discovered with analogies of the deepest relationship of that religion. The Christians are actually mentioned in the passage “I know that he will not hear it tonight, though my passion were to rend the roof. For it is deep, deep under the earth that the persecuted are permitted to assemble, as the Christians assembled in the Catacombs. But if, by some incredible accident, there were here tonight a man who all his life had thus immensely misunderstood us, I would put this question to him: ‘When those Christians met in those Catacombs, what sort of moral reputation had they in the streets above? What tales were told of their atrocities by one educated Roman to another?” (Chesterton pg. 2). Not only are the Christians mentioned here, they are also discussed openly by the characters as well. This is not how formal allegories are written. Regarding other related elements of the story, Chesterton’s narrative style conveys interest in such a way that the reader is not lost in endless references and symbolism. Chesterton’s commentary gives a sense of all-knowing from an outside perspective as the narration provides insight into the other elements of the story. The allegorical aspects are, mostly not overbearing to many readers.

Overall, as mentioned, the story is not an allegory in the classical sense. The symbolism is only loose and meant to imply ideals. In a true allegory, the entire story structure is designed from that which it is meant to symbolize and twisted into another tale to disguise it. The story is conveyed in such a way that this is evident and only partially done. Furthermore, classic allegories do not make direct references to the subjects of the allegories in any way. The fact that Chesterton does this should completely rule out the possibility of this story being referred to as a Christian allegory by followers. The style in which this story was designed and written should prevent it from being regarded as an allegory for general good and evil as well, as all stories depict this in at least some fashion and are of course not considered allegories.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Man Who Was Thursday by Chesterton." November 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-man-who-was-thursday-by-chesterton/.

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