I get the distinct impression while reading G. K. Chesterton’s short novel The Man Who Was Thursday that he is an author who enjoys the journey of writing and story-telling more so than the destination. This novel is a wild philosophical ride containing Chesterton’s grand writing style and imagination. I admit that I could have easily gotten bogged down in trying too hard to figure out what every detail signified; however, I managed to kick back and have as much fun and intrigue as I think Chesterton intends his readers to have. Some minor plot SPOILERS are ahead.
A council of seven anarchists each named after a day of the week elects Gabriel Syme to be their Thursday. Unknown to the council (or so we think), Syme is an undercover philosophical policeman and a poet that intends to subvert the council’s plans. As Syme pursues and is pursued by numerous friends and enemies and those of whom he is not sure, the reader discovers that six of the seven anarchists are actually policemen in the same vein as Syme – leaving only the elusive Sunday for the council to try to pin down. And pinning down Sunday is a little like pinning down the universe. Or pinning down what Chesterton actually means. An example: What does it mean that a council of anarchists is essentially made up of – nobody?
Throughout the story, I occasionally thought that the plot reminded me of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. Towards the end, while the six councilmen are sharing a strange party courtesy of Sunday, I stumbled upon this passage:
For a long time- it seemed hours – that huge masquerade of mankind swayed and stamped in front of them to marching and exultant music. Every couple dancing seemed a separate romance; it might be a fairy dancing with a pillar-box, or a peasant girl dancing with the moon; but in each case it was, somehow, as absurd as Alice in Wonderland, yet as grave and kind as a love story.
All of these oddities and questions make me continue wanting to explore Chesterton’s writing.