Transformation of Gabriel Syme
Gabriel Syme, one of the undercover detectives in Chesterton’s novel, The Man Who Was Thursday , underwent a personal transition throughout the novel. His attitude, actions, and views (entire self) shifted from the beginning of the strange sequence of events to the end of his adventure. When Syme is first introduced, he has an arrogant quality, he is a self centered nuisance, yet he transforms into a citizen who accepts that he knows next to nothing, and is very much humbled. This transition is the decay of a mask. The conversion and decay of Syme’s facade takes place throughout the whole novel, but the bulk of his transition is due to the risks that he is forced to take, the questions without answers, and the realization that his knowledge is truly limited.
The story opens up in the park where Gregory and Syme first meet (Chap. 1). Syme quickly aggravates Gregory as they argue about order and chaos. Syme appreciates order, even stubborn on the topic. It is not his opinion or his examples (p 9-10) that annoy Gregory, but Syme’s childish interruptions here and there. These remarks reflect his character greatly, he is selfish, egoistic, and the scene where he becomes “Thursday”, one could also claim that he is delusional. As he is brought before the council with Gregory, he steals the “spotlight” and is inaugurated “Thursday”. Blinded by his selfish thirst for adventure and thrill, he puts himself in an odd position; a chairman of anarchists, the very thing he disagrees and even is working to stop. This is where his transformation begins.
Being “Thursday” does not set in until Syme makes his way to the hotel to meet the other days of the week. Slowly realizing that he is in over his head. We see the first signs of his arrogant facade decay, as he becomes uneasy about the situation. While contemplating snitching on the anarchists to a policeman from the balcony, he finds himself in a humbling position, between breaking his promise and the intense stare of the President. This situation does not fully shift Syme, it is this and the events to follow.
As the anarchists resume there discussion of their next action of destruction, one sees the further decay of the arrogant and “all knowing” Syme, and is introduced to the humbled patient one. By acting and speaking like an anarchist it is only natural for him to think like an anarchist to maintain his cover. At this meeting Syme is shaken, as he believes he is almost found out. After the suspicion blows over, Syme “sunk down into his seat shuddering, in a palsy passionate relief.” (Chap 6./ p 66). This is not the same Syme we were introduced to.
In a time span of less than 24 hours he has accepted his position. He knows nothing, he is in constant danger, and accepts it. One can assume that the arrogant poet in the park was nothing but a facade. At the table of anarchists Syme is humbled. His job is to survive and to stop the anarchists from achieving chaos, yet it’s through the following chaos that Syme becomes even more himself. He is bound by a promise and the magnificent President, a man who forces Syme out of his all knowing shell. By the end of the novel the other days of the week are in the same situation as Syme. Each as they learn and experience more, realize they know less, and are at peace with the chaos. They find the order in the chaos. Syme finds himself in the chaos. The President/Sunday/the man in the dark room guides them on an extraordinary journey that answers everything and yet nothing at the same time. The adventure is the experience Syme needed to break himself down to find the order and chaos underneath the mask, however,it turns out the course of events that Syme experienced was a dream. This dream of him breaking down the way he sees himself to the person he needs or should be was in his mind the whole time, he is there for himself.