In May 29 1874, Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England. In 1887, He enrolls as a day student at St. Paul's Preparatory School and begins writing and sketching in journals. His time there was not outstanding like his writings. "He lacked the capability to direct his attention to subjects that did not interest him. Physically he was a large and clumsy boy, and in athletics he won no distinction whatsoever" ("British Writers, 1983, Vol. 6, P.335-246"). He was depressed, which triggered his thoughts of suicide. Though he was intelligent, his academic career was not going so well. However, he blossomed with his writing and with the encouragement of his friends. He enjoyed debating and journalism.
In 1893 however, when he joined the Slade School of Art, he experimented with an Ouija board and became almost fascinated with diabolism. "In 1895 Chesterton left University College without a degree and worked for the London Publisher Redway and T. Fisher Unwin" ("Gilbert Keith Chesterton-Biography and works"). In 1899, war broke out against two small Dutch South African Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. "Chesterton had strong political interests" ("Biography: G K Chesterton, writer"). Chesterton opposed this war, not because he was a pacifist, but because he thought that this was an unjust war. "Chesterton's liberalism was always a liberalism of belief in small unites. He hated imperialism and large units and the uniformity that imperialism's tyranny imposed upon people of different traditions. He was in violent reaction against the popular imperialism of the day" ("British Writers, 1983, Vol. 6, P.335-246"). In 1896, he fell in love with a girl named Frances Blogg only to find him in a spiritual crisis in 1900. Then, in 1901 he married Frances Blogg, who pulled him out of his spiritual crisis. In 1901, he begins writing a regular Saturday column for Daily News, much to his journalism's delight. "He was then asked to preach in 1905 at St. Paul's Church, along with entering a 30-year public debate with George Bernard Shaw" ("Chesterton's Literary Life"). He was officially received into the roman Catholic Church in 1922, but had been writing from a Roman Catholic point of view for a long time before that"( "G K Chesterton, Writer"). Though he was a journalist, Chesterton wrote many fiction novels. He wrote books like the Father Brown Mystery novels, and the adventure story The Man Who Was Thursday. "The tone of the story, as of every Chesterton story, is strongly affected by the exuberant style of the author" ("G K Chesterton, Writer").
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Chesterton was influenced by many people in his lifetime. In his childhood, when he was struggling, he surrounded himself with a group of friends. One of these friends would be recognized later in life as E.C. Bentley; who created a light verse known as the clerihew and helped formed the Junior Debating Club. He was also influenced by his family, which gave him his liberal nature concerning politics. His parents were Unitarian in religion; but that was something he did not inherit. However, his little brother Cecil joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1913 ("Chesterton's Literary Life"). Unfortunately, just five years later in 1918, Cecil dies in war. The next year he traveled with his wife Frances to Jerusalem, the Continent, and North America. He fell gravely ill in 1914, which it is unknown to as whether it related to his death in 1936. He died the 14 of June in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. During his life he published 69 books and another ten of them would be published after his death ("Chesterton's Literary Life").
Overview/Summary of Father Brown Mystery Stories: Mr. Glass
This story is from a collection of the Father Brown Mystery Collection. The story begins with a scientist by the name of Orion Hood is reading a grand collection of novels. The novels whereabouts and identities were emphasized strongly in this story. The Doctor was suddenly interrupted by a disheveled man, stumbling over heavy load of luggage and an umbrella. It was Father Brown, the priest, who had come to see him. Father Brown then begins to explain the situation that he has come for advice on, because Dr. Hood has assisted criminologists and detectives in his career, because he was a genius in his department and in his studies. So Father Brown, a detective as well as a priest, came to him with a case. He asks for the help of the doctor to solve a case involving a young couple, Mr. Todhunter and Ms. MacNab. They are planning a wedding and the mother of Ms. MacNab is complaining about the profession of young Todd. She says that he spends hours in his room, talking to an unknown person named 'Mr. Glass', who is described as a tall dark stranger with a silk top hat on. The young man denies these accusations and says that his trade will be revealed before the wedding.
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The young woman suddenly interrupts the discussion, saying that Todd had been tied up and a murder could have occurred. Naturally, Father Brown and Dr. Hood rush to the seaside hotel and investigate the so called 'murder'. What they find when they arrive is a man tied up with scarves on the floor, presumed to be Mr. Todd, of course. They examine the room intensely to understand the gravity of the situation, and find several key items. First, they discover two wineglasses on the table and then a smashed one on the floor. Then they also discover a sword with a drop of blood on the tip, along with a silk top hat, much too large for Mr. Todd, with no trace of hair inside of it. There were playing cards scattered across the floor as well. Dr. Hood deduces that the sword was the murder weapon of Mr. Glass, and the glasses on the floor were from their session together. The hat belonged to Mr. Glass, and he was evidently bald because there was no hair on his head and he was also elderly. He also deduced that Todd could break free from his binds at any time, and that this was his cover up for killing Mr. Glass, who was evidently buried somewhere in the garden or stuffed up the chimney ("Chesterton, Gilbert Keith"). But when the clever man thinks he has solved the case, Todd begins laughing because of the accusations Dr. Hood placed on him. Father Brown then figures out the truth: Todd is really a magician. The hat was too big for him because it wasn't meant to be worn, it was meant for pulling rabbits out of. The glasses and the 'conversations' between him and 'Mr. Glass' were really Todd juggling and saying one, two, three, missed a glass, not Mr. Glass. The playing cards scattered all over the floor was him trying to perform card tricks. Lastly, the sword with blood was him trying to swallow swords and falling. As for the scarves, he was trying to perform a Houdini and escape from them successfully.
Critical Analysis: Influences
Throughout Chesterton's childhood he wasn't athletic or popular. He had trouble academically, which I believe was the influence on the character Dr. Hood, who was extremely intelligent and at the end of the story, was dumbfounded because his deductions are wrong and Father Brown figured out the truth. When Chesterton went to college he struggled with skepticism and depression in 1893 and during this period he experimented with an Ouija board and grew fascinated with diabolism. ("Gilbert Keith Chesterton") These events may have influenced his writing of Heretics or the mystery stories he wrote in collections called The Father Brown Mystery Stories, or the Wisdom of Father Brown.
. Chesterton's religion also came into play with his writings. He wrote many speeches for churches and books that often the character struggled for good morals and godly behavior. His novel, the man who was Thursday, was an anarchist named Thursday who struggled with his self and his religion. There is also a character named Sunday who is considered to resemble God in his characteristics. That was partly influenced by his experiments with the Ouija board and with his wife, Frances Blogg, who was a major part in pulling him out of his crisis ("Gilbert Keith Chesterton").
.Critical Analysis: Main Themes
The main themes of Chesterton's novels revolve mainly around religion and changing circumstances. In his novel, The Man Who was Thursday, the main theme of it is focused mainly on the character Sunday's shifting perceptions of Sunday. The detective initially experiences a vague sense of evil in the presence of this godly figure, but is later replaced with respect for the man, "who is thought to represent the human failure to completely fathom the paradoxes of life and nature" ("The Man Who Was Thursday").
In his short story The Absence of Mr. Glass the themes that are evident are the changing circumstances. The circumstance changes drastically when Dr. Hood indicts the murder of the pseudo Mr. Glass on Todhunter, but the truth was ironically discovered by Father Brown when he points out the truth of the 'murder objects'. His novel The Man Who was Thursday's theme also focused on spiritual struggle, something Chesterton himself also experienced during his years of college that he ended up dropping out of.
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Religion is a theme for most of his stories because of his own struggles with it, when he became fascinated with diabolism ("Gilbert Keith Chesterton") and when he was writing from a Catholic point of view when he was accepted into the church in 1922 but in 1905 when he was asked to speak for the church's behalf.
Critical Analysis: Stylistic Devices
All authors use some method of literary and stylistic device. G.K. Chesterton was no exception. In his story he incorporated many devices, such as similes. "But if one took a volume of Chaucer or Shelley from that rank, its absence irritated the mind like a gap in a man's front teeth." ("Chesterton, Gilbert K."). He used such devices like synesthesia, which is words describing different sensations. For example, in his story he uses "heathen holiness" ("Chesterton, Gilbert K."). The effect of synesthesia is meant to be poetic and to provoke thoughts to the reader. Chesterton also uses rhetorical questions in his writing, such as "Maggie MacNab and young Todhunter want to get married. Now, what can be more important than that?" ("Chesterton, Gilbert K."). The effect of a rhetorical question is the emphasis of the subject.
Chesterton enjoys using a lot of allegories in his writing, for example in The Man Who Was Thursday. The suffering of the main character was contributed to Chesterton, who also suffered from depression during his college days at Slade's Art School, and claimed afterwards that he wrote this book as a strange confirmation that goodness was at the heart of every aspect of the world. He also used aspects of the bible in this work, Sunday, the character that represented God, sits on a throne in front of the other members of the anarchists. His last words were, "can ye drink of the cup that I drink of?", and that is the same question that Jesus asks James and John in Mark 10:38-39, because he wanted to challenge their commitment in becoming his disciples.
Critical Analysis: Characters
Since the Father Brown mystery stories were short stories, the characters were not as plentiful as are in longer stories. But the characters that are mentioned are Father Brown, Maggie MacNab, Mr. Todhunter, Dr. Orion Hood, and Mrs. MacNab. Father Brown was the detective, and he added to the story because he introduced the idea to the doctor and was demeaned somewhat by the presence of the scientist and logical sense of Dr. Hood. He seems rather disorganized, as well as not as intelligent as Dr. Orion Hood. Maggie MacNab did not add much to this thrilling short story except she was the one who informed the Father and doctor of her courter's current situation. Mr. Todhunter was the innocent magician; he was practicing his tricks and was wrongly accused of murder by Dr. Hood.
Dr. Hood was the brilliant scientist, who deduced a wrong persecution of Mr. Todd from a convincing set of clues. When the doctor was contradicted of his intelligent assumption it was rather of a shock to the reader because he was seemingly as intelligent as Sherlock Holmes. Lastly there is Mrs. MacNab, mother of Maggie MacNab, who misheard the mutterings of the magician as she nosed in on his room whilst he was practicing his magical arts alone. She interpreted ventriloquism and Mr. Todd saying 'missed a glass' into a second person named Mr. Glass into the 'conversation' with Mr. Todhunter.
In the story, Maggie MacNab's mother overheard some conversations between Mr. Todhunter and the fictitious Mr. Glass. She hears Mr. Todd talk, then overhears a strange, high pitched voice. She assumes it to be another person, but is actually Mr. Todd practicing his ventriloquism, for he is a magician. Mr. Glass was rumored to be a tall, strange man in a silk top hat with a strange spectral quality to his presence. Such rumors were false, of course, because Mr. Glass was nothing more than misinterpreted dialect of the magician with himself. The point of Mr. Glass was that he was a made up character by the household to explain Mr. Toddhunter's strange behavior as a reticent magician.