Themes and Meanings

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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.

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“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. Although he does not understand at the beginning of this story exactly which crime Flambeau plans to commit, Father Brown realizes that it is not in his interest to be left alone for long with this potentially violent criminal.

Father Brown also senses intuitively that Valentin is not a totally objective detective who would go out of his way to protect Catholic priests. As Valentin and Father Brown travel together from Harwich to London, Valentin laughs at Father Brown, believing that the eucharistic congress that Father Brown will attend “had doubtless sucked out of their local stagnation many such creatures, blind and helpless, like moles disinterred.” The virulence of his hatred for Catholics helps Father Brown to realize that Valentin does not care if a crucifix is stolen. Father Brown must therefore appeal to Valentin’s desire to solve another crime in order to prevent physical harm...

(The entire section contains 583 words.)

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