Tuesday, June 18 2024

“We

can say that the family is the unit of the state; that it is the cell
that makes up the formation.

[…]

If we are not of those who begin by invoking a divine Trinity, we must
none the less invoke a human Trinity; and see that triangle repeated
everywhere in the pattern of the world

.”

These words of G. K. Chesterton, reported in his The Everlasting Man, are emblematic of the vision he had of the
family.

The profound conviction that the family is a natural, primordial,
immutable, and sacred institution, has been the basis of the long and
prolific activity of the English writer who lived between the 19th and 20th
centuries.

With the irony and sharpness that characterized him, he has always
struggled, using his pen, to defend the unique and fruitful bond that makes
a man and a woman a new subject and that has, within it, the power to
generate life.

But today what is the value of his writings?

A timeless author who seems to be talking to us

Dr. Alla Kovalenko, graduate in Social Communication of the Church at the
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, with her research work entitled

Defense of the Family in the journalistic writings of G.K. Chesterton,

has investigated the persuasive ability of G.K. Chesterton and tried to
understand in what way and just how it could be relevant today: “The main
purpose of my of the articles which G.K. Chesterton dedicated to the themes
‘marriage,’ ‘family,’ ‘divorce’,” explained in the final part of his work,
“was to understand what means and criteria of persuasion were used by the
author in his journalistic writings. […] Secondly, it seemed interesting
to grasp the argumentative power of his reasoning in order to find similar
ways to defend the family in the media, protagonists of the public space of
our time.”

What the researcher has found is that the arguments, the similarities, the
examples, the paradoxes that the English author used to safeguard the
family institution from the poison of individualism that spread in the
society of his time can be captivating and effective even if re-proposed in
present day, at a time when the family is going through a very deep crisis.

Chesterton’s worries

Chesterton found himself, all his life, refuting ideas that he felt were
harmful to the family.

For example, in a time when impatience for being tied down was on the rise
– ties seen as laces choking off freedom – Chesterton argued that marriage
vows were not a bond that had to hold together something that was likely to
divide: the oath, rather, he emphasized, raised, and emphasized the desire
to be together.

In an era in which it was pressing for the liberalization of divorce when
feelings fade out, the author affirmed that marriage was not based only on
feelings, but above all on fidelity and on the responsibility of the
spouses.

In a cultural context which promoted “free love,” understood as a
“relationship without constraints,” Chesterton strongly argued that true
love cannot be anarchist, but love requires by itself “lovers to be bound”.
Let us think for a moment about the paradoxical way of making his point:
“They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white
contradiction in two words — `free-love’ — as if a lover ever had been,
or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the
institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of
taking him at his word”.

These are just a few examples, but enough to provoke a reflection: how many
criticisms facing the family in Chesterton’s time are also present in our
day?

How often do we perceive distrust towards marriage, towards the concrete
possibility of making a commitment that will last a lifetime?

Perhaps, the “enemies” of the family identified by the author (for example,

Capitalism, Eugenics, Industrialism, Sentimentality, Misunderstanding
of the sense of freedom, Lack of supernatural dimension etc

.) are not so distant from us.

The uniqueness of Chesterton’s style

The thesis analyzes only Chesterton’s journalistic writings. We all know
that the British writer mastered all kind of genres throughout his prolific
career.

The researcher reveals how the writer, in addressing the different themes,
possessed a rare ability to construct “frames” using – in his favor – the
convictions of the adversaries: that which at first sight could seem to be
the strong point of his opponent, it became his strong argument. For
example, if divorce advocates said it was inevitable where
“incompatibilities” arose, the author claimed that the natural
incompatibility between men and women was at the root of lasting
relationships.

Chesterton then stands out for the mastery of the rhetorical figures, which
undoubtedly make his speech beautiful, engaging, and convincing. He was
also able to use “images” that would form real pictures of reality in the
reader’s mind.

The value of this research

If we ask ourselves where the communicative force of the author resides,
Kovalenko’s answer would be: “The general impression is that the author
overcomes the known schemes thanks to his ability to combine, in a totally
organic way, all the elements of persuasion. His arguments never lack ethos and pathos. This modality gives the logical
structures a strong communicative impact. It would therefore not be
possible to identify a single factor of persuasion: it is in fact obtained
from the union, from the combination of various elements that are mutually
reinforcing. Each element recovers and compensates for the weaknesses or
incompleteness of the other.”

The thesis, dissecting the arguments of an author who has made history in
the landscape of public debate, offers countless ideas to communicate
effectively, even in our day, on such a delicate and important issue.

If we do not have the same persuasive force and the same originality of
Chesterton, by reading this work of research, we will be able to make our
own and borrow others…

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