One of Chesterton’s most beloved novels is The Flying Inn. While Chesterton was not yet a Catholic in 1914, when it was published, it does demonstrate that he was on his way to the Catholic Church. There are many themes in the novel, but two that Catholics should take note of are: the need to fight for good things, and the joy of life.
The desire to defend what is good is one theme of the novel. The novel’s plot addresses much of the nonsense that plagues our society today, and the dreary restlessness of a society losing touch with Christianity. The two main characters are Humphrey Pump and Patrick Dalroy who fight joyfully against the flawed ideologies of modernism. They do this primarily through zipping through England in a pub on wheels, with much cheese and beer.
The joy of life is a second dominant theme. One of the main antagonists is Lord Ivywood. He espouses dreariness and is devoid of joy, he is a cold man, with no solid foundation in anything. He only values money and power, passing laws to restrict alcohol and the little joys people take delight in. He is in great contrast to Humphrey Pump and Patrick Dalroy. This brings to mind one of the Fathers of the Church, St. Basil, who was adamant that to be a Catholic means to take joy in the good things of life. St. Basil wrote a famous prayer, called “On Giving Thanks to the Creator,” in which he explains that Catholics must be grateful for all the small everyday joys that God gives us, such as clothing, food, warmth, beauty, and small pleasures.
In conclusion, reading this delightfully quirky classic is a wonderful way to begin a new year, and is a timely reminder that, as Catholics, we are to take joy in the good things of life, and be joyful in the fight against evil. Chesterton believed that we are to live our best life, and to take pleasure in the everyday joys that God gives us.