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Chapter 2: The Secret of Gabriel Syme August 3, 2007

Posted by Ashleigh in The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton.

1. In chapter 1, there were several references made to dreams. For example:

The place was not only pleasant, but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a deception but rather as a dream.

…she kept recurring like a motive in music through all his mad adventures afterwards…like a red thread through those dark and ill-drawn tapestries of the night. For what followed was so improbable, that it might well have been a dream.

…that you thought a paradox might wake men up to a neglected truth.

Now in chapter 2, the idea of dreams comes up again. Syme tells Gregory, “I don’t often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the other way.” To which Gregory replies, “You are not asleep, I assure you.” Do you think there’s a chance that this story will turn out to be a dream?

2. What did you think of Gregory’s character when he told Syme, “I would break twenty oaths of secrecy for the pleasure of taking you down a peg”? Do you think he will keep Syme’s secret?

3. What did you think when you learned Syme’s secret?

4. Gregory tells Syme his purpose is “to abolish God!” He goes on to say that the anarchists “hate Rights and Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong.” How does this relate to today’s society? Does it bring to mind postmodern philosophies?

5. What was your first impression of Sunday?

6. Gregory says that Sunday advised him to “Dress up as an anarchist” because “nobody will ever expect you to do anything dangerous then.” What do you think of this advice? Does it translate to today’s society? Do we take those arguing extremes seriously or write them off?

7. Any other thoughts on this chapter?


1. Danielle - August 6, 2007

1.) Yes, I think it could turn out to be a dream, or rather a nightmare, as the title describes it? All the references to dreaming could certainly be setting it up to indeed be a dream.

2.) Hmmm, I think he’s not very trustworthy, so possibly. On the other hand, he is, in a way, competing with Syme, so he may keep it.

4.) I thought he was clever and I really enjoyed that scene in the book.

5.) It certainly does! Gregory is arguing for no absolutes and is in favor of relativism. Although, of course, he is anti rules. He does not feel relativistic about that!

6.) I guess it depends on the subject matter. But in general I tend to write them off.

Would like to write more but must run . . . babies crying!

2. Michelle - August 9, 2007

Well, my guess sure was wrong. The logic I used to guess that Gregory was not a real anarchist was the exact one he counts on to protect him from suspicion. Very clever.

A smart guy I know once pointed out that it’s difficult to stand for anything. He went on to explain (though I know I won’t do him justice) that it’s much easier to remain neutral and cast doubt on a position than to take a public stance on one. To answer your question Ashleigh, I think extremists are often written off. Especially if they contradict peoples comfortable world views. Even in calling them extremists we give them a negative tint.

I was so excited when Syme shared his secret. I love the irony and humor. The confession was well timed.

Regarding question #4… obviously there are parallels — the whole relative truth idea vs. absolute truth.

3. bethany3boys - August 10, 2007

I am still waiting for my book. I even went downtown yesterday to try to just pick up a copy at the bookstore and it was a special order from there. So I am still waiting. Hope I can jump in but I might be a little late.

4. Ashleigh - August 11, 2007

Bethany, just jump right in after you get your book. I don’t think it’ll be too late. I made a schedule for when I post questions so that we get through them all, but am personally behind in adding my own thoughts and reactions to the questions.

5. Ashleigh - August 15, 2007

The first time I read this book, I think I laughed out loud when I found out Syme was a detective. It’s just so absurd that here is this anarchist making him not promise to tell the police when he is in fact one of them!

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