G.K. Chesterton explores the nature of truth and goodness
by G.K. Chesterton
(Ignatius Press reprint, 2011, 195pp, $25.45, ISBN 978-1-58617-479-8. Available from Freedom Publishing)
G.K. Chesterton, often dubbed the "apostle of common sense", was a prolific writer. Often overlooked are some of his novels, including Man-alive.
This novel focuses on Innocent Smith and his interactions with other residents of a boarding house named Beacon Hill.
He arrives when the members of the house are thrown into turmoil by a powerful wind. Smith immediately alters the dynamics within the household through his actions, including arranging to elope with Mary Gray.
He also creates the "High Court of Beacon", whose establishment will prove crucial in the second part of the novel.
Just as Innocent Smith's actions seem to be having some positive outcomes, it is reported that Smith is wanted on charges of burglary, attempted murder and polygamy.
However, Michael Moon, one of the residents, declares that the case falls under their jurisdiction and must be tried by the "High Court of Beacon." The rest of the novel recounts the court case which ensues and in which the truth comes out.
Truth and goodness
Through Manalive, Chesterton explores the nature of truth and goodness.
Like the characters in Beacon Hill, readers are encouraged not to judge the eccentric Innocent Smith by his outward appearances and mannerisms nor to be swayed by rumour.
Instead, a genuine assessment of the truth requires a careful consideration of people's intentions and of the facts, both of which require diligent thought and discernment.
In doing so, one may come to the conclusion that a man like Innocent Smith, whom the reader is initially inclined to label a dangerous madman, may end up to be an innocent and sane man.
Dale Ahlquist, President of the American Chesterton Society, warns his readers in the introduction that this book does not follow a normal plot and that they must put aside any pre-conceived notions as to how a story should unfold. It is for this reason that one will either thoroughly enjoy or dislike this work.