Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Since his death in 1936, G. K. Chesterton has remained justly famous for the five volumes of his stories in which Father Brown is an amateur sleuth. The first Father Brown story to appear in print, “The Blue Cross” illustrates Father Brown’s ability to combine theological insights with intuition to solve puzzling crimes. At first glance, little distinguishes him from hundreds of other English parish priests. His drab exterior, however, hides his profound intellect from both Valentin and Flambeau, who mistake appearance for reality. Ironically, Flambeau shares with Valentin the belief that Father Brown is incapable of defending himself. Neither Valentin nor Flambeau realizes that Brown thinks intuitively and accurately and is a wise and objective judge of human behavior.

“The Blue Cross” illustrates Father Brown’s ingenious ability both to save his own life and to solve a puzzling crime. Father Brown realizes that the police cannot protect citizens from criminals at all times. He must take an active role in dealing with the crime that Flambeau intends to commit. His religious superiors have entrusted Father Brown with a valuable cross that a thief should not be allowed to steal. Father Brown senses intuitively that the tall priest cannot truly be a priest because Flambeau relied on “bad theology” in affirming that Christianity was incompatible with reason. He concludes that any man who pretends to be a priest can only be up to no good....

(The entire section is 583 words.)