Saturday, February 16, 2008

Father Brown Friday

Yes, yes I know it isn't Friday. But you see, I've been meaning to start a weekly Father Brown discussion, and yesterday (friday) Algernon and I did our best to come up with one. (Sorry if I butchered your questions Algernon :) But I didn't get home until rather late. So please forgive me for posting it on Saturday rather then Friday.

Alright for anyone interested: First go and read The Blue Cross. It's the first story in The Innocence of Father Brown, for those who prefer book form.

Now, discussion questions. Any thoughts?

Flambeau prides himself on being a rather "noble thief" if you will. And later becomes a great detective. How far would he really have gone with his threats to Father Brown on the hilltop at the end?

Father Brown knew that he had left many clues for the detectives to follow, but how did he know with such surety that Valentin was waiting nearby?

If Flambeau had thought (as he certainly seems to have) that he had succesfully switched the crosses, why did he tell Father Brown to hand them over?

Father Brown, near the end says Reason is always reasonable, even in the last limbo, in the lost borderland of things. I know that people charge the Church with lowering reason, but it is just the other way. Alone on earth, the Church makes reason really supreme. Alone on earth the Church affirms that God himself is bound by reason. And even closer to the end, Father Brown gives as one of his reasons for knowing that Flambeau was not a priest as You attacked reason, it's bad theology.
What are your thoughts? What is reason? Or (if it's simpler) what is unreason?

Flambeau assumes that as a priest, Father Brown is very naive, he doesn't know much about the world of sin. Yet Father Brown knows more even then Flambeau does.

Again, what are your thoughts? Is this a common misconception of priests?


Mamselle Duroc said...

Ria, awesome discussion questions! I hope it's all right if an unofficial ChesterTeen makes a brief comment?

As far as the first question goes, Father Brown provided some thoughts on this in The Flying Stars. Flambeau considers himself a 'noble thief,' but once what can't merely keep at one sort of evil. Unless a person turns around and begins climbing up, he'll go down.

Flambeau was certainly capable of carrying out his threats... in fact, he had been violent in the past, though in a humorous fashion... didn't he stand a policeman on his head once or something?

He could have gone so far as to pull a little priest apart, and I believe he would have at some point in his downward descent... but I don't know if this would be that point.

Ria said...

Of course it is, how lovely to see you here!!! And thanks, although in all fairness I have to say, many of the questions were Algernon's. (:

That's true, I had forgotten... good point!

Nancy C. Brown said...

The third question has always intrigued me. Why did Flambeau say to hand over the package, and then say, of course you can't hand it over, because I switched it? To fool Father Brown? Or did Chesterton put it in there for dramatic effect?

Or did Flambeau temporarily forget he switched the packages (or was he afraid he switched them once too many?) and wanted to see what Father Brown's reaction to his request was?

We may have to wait to see Gilbert in heaven to know the answers to these mystifying questions.

Mamselle Duroc said...

The third question is really very intriguing; I'll have to read through the story again, and see if any thoughts come to me.

For the past few days I've been fascinated by the question: "What is reason?" Fascinated, but terrified. I don't know if I feel quite up to tackling that!

But, for a starter, if we're to accept what Father Brown says, that God Himself is bound by reason, then for instance, the mystery of the Trinity, while one of the greatest and most mind-boggling mysteries, must yet be reasonable.

You know, I'm sure Aquinas has quite a bit to say about reason... I'll have to check it out.

Mamselle Duroc said...

Regarding the third question:

I read over the passage once again, and I would come to the conclusion that Flambeau was simply setting the stage by his demand. A prelude to mockery, you might say. He certainly laughed long and hard and called Faher Brown a few names in his triumph.

I would come to that conclusion, except...

Flambeau's demand for the cross was accompanied by a threat if Father Brown didn't comply, which seems to indicate that he had made the demand earnestly. Which leaves me just as confused as ever.

But I was intrigued by Flambeau's violent attitude. Flambeau has always been a very emphatic sort of person, but regardless of whether he really would have pulled Father Brown apart or not, just in his speech there's a certain wildness and roughness. Calling Father Brown a 'celibate simpleton,' a 'turnip,' and just talking in a very violent way in general.

Is it just me, or does this not seem to quite fit in with the Flambeau of the other stories? Perhaps Chesterton's conception of the character developed over time?

Or is this just his usual emphatic nature, rendered more violent by his current immoral line of business?

Algernon said...

Thanks Ria. It looks great! The question you missed is n't much of a question at all. It's simply that in the in the Flambeau/Fr. Brown dialogue Flambeau sais,

"Ah, yes, these modern infidels appeal to their reason; but who can look at those millions of worlds and not feel that there may well be wonderful universes above us where reason is utterly unreasonable?"

You connot call reason unreasonable, because it makes the word 'reason' meaningless.

There is half a hundred other reasons (ha!) why what he said does not work, but I am not sufficiently intelligent to to think them clearly, let alone write them.