The Essays of G. K. Chesterton

by G. K. Chesterton

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What is discussed in G. K. Chesterton's essay "On Running After One's Hat"?

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In the essay "On Running After One's Hat," Chesterton begins by remarking on the flooding of London which has occurred while he was out of town. Far from being relieved that he had escaped an inconvenience, he feels envious of those who are able to enjoy the marvelous spectacle of London under water.

The remainder of the essay is a series of illustrations of the thesis which Chesterton articulates in the final paragraph:

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

Many adults complain about having to wait for a train, but no boy makes such a complaint, because for him a railway station is "a cavern of wonder and a palace of poetical pleasures." Most people think it an inconvenience to run after one's hat, when they would happily run after a ball in the course of a game.

The essay is thoroughly characteristic of Chesterton, both thematically and stylistically. His favorite theme is the wonder and poetry of everyday life, which most people fail to notice. The style is exuberant, often facetious, continually juxtaposing the extravagant and mysterious with the commonplace in order to make the point that nothing is really dull. Other features of the style include rhetorical repetition and grammatical parallelism, as in this passage, which, as is so often the case with Chesterton, sounds more like oratory than essay-writing:

It certainly is comic [to run after one's hat]; but man is a very comic creature, and most of the things he does are comic—eating, for instance. And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing—such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife.

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