Defense of the family in the journalistic writings of G.K. Chesterton

Defense of the family in the journalistic writings of G.K. Chesterton

“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...