(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

G. K. Chesterton is famous both as a writer of mystery stories and as a Christian apologist. In The Man Who Was Thursday, he joins the two roles. Throughout his work, Chesterton often tries to show that the joy and excitement of life do not come from destruction, negation, rebellion, and heresy, but instead from the defense of orthodoxy, which for him includes both creativity and order. To a large extent, Chesterton was reacting against the nihilism and materialism that had become fashionable in the 1890’s. Syme, like Chesterton himself, believes that struggling to maintain order and tradition is both more noble and more exciting than fighting to destroy them.

Chesterton often compares the defenders of order—in this novel, the police detectives—to the knights of the chivalric romances. From the moment he takes his place on the Central Anarchist Council, Syme carries a sword—first a sword cane, then a true knightly sword at the dress ball. He fights a duel, like a knight in single combat, to keep the anarchists at bay. When he realizes that he is alone in his struggle, he recalls passages from the medieval French epic The Song of Roland, which describes a Christian hero fighting alone against the Saracens. The defenders of order are heroes like the knights of old, and like the crusaders, they are fighting in a losing cause. That they fight in isolation for a hopeless cause seems to be part of their joy: Syme is happy because he is...

(The entire section is 555 words.)