Orthodoxy Characters

This Study Guide consists of approximately 27 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Orthodoxy.
This section contains 748 words
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Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc was a Christian saint who Chesterton sees as embodying the good parts of the philosophies of Nietzsche and Tolstoy. Like Tolstoy, Joan was able to see the value in small, trivial things. She could see the good in a peasant (she was one, after all) and could admire the beauty of a simple landscape. Like Nietzsche, Joan could also recognize that she lived in a cowardly time that was afraid to stand up for anything. Joan saw that the substance of belief was being diluted. The difference between Joan and these two philosophers, however, is that Joan was willing to act on her beliefs. While Tolstoy, a comfortable aristocrat, idly praised the working man from his armchair, Joan herself actually was a peasant. Nietzsche, for all of his criticisms of how spineless the modern world had become, and for all of his praise of the man of action, did nothing to change it. Joan, on the other hand, literally took up her sword and fought to change the world, and she did. In her life and actions, Joan resembles the man she was serving: Christ, who she took inspiration from as the ultimate synthesis of right belief with action.


Jesus Christ is the founder of Christianity and, according to his followers, is the Divine Son of God. In addition to being the founder of the religion, he also serves as the chief example for Christians to imitate. In particular, Christ shows how to embody the "paradox" of embracing two competing passions without compromising either. Thus, for example, Christ was himself supremely humble, to the point where he washed the feet of his merely mortal disciples. At the same time, however, he recognized who he was and therefore was willing to make promises which only God could make to those who would listen to him. Christ's temptation in the Garden of Gesthemene and his cry on the cross—"My God why have you forsaken me?"—also serve as a stepping stone for the agnostic to accept him. The agnostic is characterized by his doubt, and therefore can identify with Christ who, though he was the Son of God, still had his own moment of doubt. Christ is also characterized by his happiness, which Chesterton argues is one of the chief characteristics of the Christian. However, like the Christian, this joy can sometimes be concealed, and thus other emotions (outrage or sorrow) often seem to dominate the Gospel accounts of Christ.

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw was an English writer who was alive at the same time as Chesterton. He subscribed to the idea that the most important feature of man was his will and that actions are good by virtue of being willed.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher who argued that the only source of value in the world was the will. He admired the man that sought and achieved what he wanted, regardless of what that is. Chesterton criticizes him on several accounts. First, he argues that Nietzsche's view of value is flawed because everyone always does what they will, by definition. Second, he criticizes Nietzsche for being inactive, despite urging others to action.

H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells was a 19th-century English author who thought that scientific thought should be replaced by the more will-centered thought of the artist. Thus, instead of the geometer proving that a line is curved, he ought to will it to be curved, much like the artist makes his painting look a certain way.

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy was a 19th-century Russian author and aristocrat who believed that all actions that are specifically willed are evil because people themselves are intrinsically evil. Chesterton criticizes him because if all actions are evil, then people are left simply doing nothing.


Renan was a French writer who argued against the supernatural nature of Christ and attempted to explain his life in a purely natural way.


Torquemada was a Catholic friar who was instrumental in the Spanish Inquisition. Without condoning the Inquisition, Chesterton points out that at least Torquemada had principles in which he believed.

Mr. Blatchford

Mr. Blatchford was an English thinker who argued that Christianity and Buddhism were fundamentally the same, despite superficial differences.


Buddha was an ancient thinker whose ideas form the basis of Buddhism. The religion is based around the idea that one finds enlightenment through interior reflection and the suppression of desire.

This section contains 748 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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