15 April 2010


More Character Love

Read about other bloggers' favourite characters
in this week's Character Connection link up!

We all have characters we love . . . We do? . . . Oh, yeah . . .

When I first tried this meme out, I didn't think I would like it so much. Not being much of a people person even when I'm not reading (which is why I'm such a reader in the first place), I tend to think of characters as drivers of the theme and the theme as the whole point of the story. And I really would rather discuss impersonal things like theme, structure, genre, or setting, than characters.

Impersonal elements, you see, can be taken in terms of "what works" and "what doesn't work." They appeal to the part of me that does algebra problems for fun. Characters, on the other hand, are like those dreaded people. They can't be taken or rejected in terms of what they do for the story; they have to be loved (or hated) for themselves. Like their real-life counterparts, they deserve a chance to grow on us over time--and maybe even grow with us.

But what am I babbling about? This meme needs to get posted . . .

Father Brown
The Innocence of Father Brown, et al.
by G.K. Chesterton

"How in blazes do you know all these horrors?" cried Flambeau.

The shadow of a smile crossed the round, simple face of his clerical opponent.

"Oh, by being a celibate simpleton, I suppose," he said. "Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear real men's sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil? But, as a matter of fact, another part of my trade, too, made me sure you weren't a priest."

"What?" asked the thief, gaping.

"You attacked reason," said Father Brown. "It's bad theology."

Ah, Father Brown! Second only to Sherlock Holmes in the hierarchy of great fictional detectives! (Hmmmm. Do I sense a Top 5 List waiting to happen?)

The first set of stories about this clerical sleuth is called The Innocence of Father Brown, because G.K. Chesterton was fascinated by the paradoxical idea that someone who is supposed to be more innocent of sin than the average person turns out to be, when all is said and done, the one who knows most about sin. And not because he has committed the sins himself, but because he has guided the sinners back from the brink.

Indeed, most of the other characters--policemen, investigative reporters, people who have known the murderers for years--are absolutely stunned whenever Father Brown solves a case. All they see is a short, dumpy old man who blinks a lot, mumbles to himself, and carries around an umbrella that looks too big for him . . . and so they all underestimate him. Which is exactly how Chesterton himself wanted it: this dichotomy between Father Brown's sharp mind and his saggy, baggy appearance is the whole point of his character.

For obvious reasons, I'm not going to reveal which short story the above excerpt comes from; but I will, in the spirit of detective fiction, give you another clue. It comes from the same story as the following wonderful passage . . .

Reason and justice grip the remotest and loneliest star. Look at those stars. Don't they look as if they were single diamonds and sapphires? Well, you can imagine any mad botany or geology you please. Think of forests of adamant with leaves of brilliants. Think the moon is a blue moon, a single elephantine sapphire. But don't fancy that all that frantic astronomy would make the smallest difference to the reason and justice of conduct. On plains of opal, under cliffs cut out of pearl, you would still find a notice-board, "Thou shalt not steal."

Don't you just love a detective with good theology?

Image Source: The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton


Sullivan McPig said...

I can agree with this character choice!

Enbrethiliel said...


Hey, thanks! =D

Your choice is great, too. I think Chrestomanci is wonderful! =)

Jennifer G. said...

I don't think I've even heard of Father Brown, but you've certainly gotten me curious. I love that line about never attacking reason because it's bad theology. This is going on my list! I'm glad you're liking the meme in spite of yourself. ;)

Paul Stilwell said...

Have you watched the series from the 70s with Kenneth More? They're cheesy (sometimes dreadfully so) and hammy and very enjoyable.

I wish that some unpublished Father Brown stories would turn up somewhere that GKC had written and forgotten about - for those of us who, well, can no longer pick them up and say, "Ah, I haven't read this one yet!" and settle in with a glass of wine.

My Grandma loved Father Brown. I have her books from her days.

Enbrethiliel said...


Jennifer: That's one of my favourite Father Brown lines! =)

Thanks again for hosting this meme. I'm glad I discovered it!

Paul: I haven't seen any adaptations, not even the one with Sir Alec Guinness! =O

And you've just hit on the reason I still haven't finished reading my Complete Father Brown Stories, even after several years! I'm saving some stories for the future! =P

The Book Mole said...

I've never read Father Brown, but this makes me want to. I love Brother Cadfael BTW!

Enbrethiliel said...


Hi, Book Mole! =) Thanks for visiting.

I've only read the first Brother Cadfael mystery A Morbid Taste for Bones, but I can see why he's a beloved character. =)

Another religious sleuth worth mentioning is Bishop Blackie Ryan, an Andrew Greeley creation, but unfortunately, I can't wholeheartedly recommend Father Greeley's books!