On Running After One’s Hat by G.K. Chesterton
In On Running After One’s Hat by G.K. Chesterton we have the theme of escape, embarrassment and acceptance. Taken from his On Running After One’s Hat and Other Whimsies collection the reader realises after reading the essay that Chesterton may be exploring the theme of escape. For Chesterton it is easier to imagine himself acting as a child might do when it comes to matters of inconvenience. He believes that a person will be happier should they change their outlook or view life through the lens of a child when encountering inconvenience. Not only will an individual remain calm but they will treat each inconvenience as an adventure. Just as a child might. Chesterton using the young boy at the train station as an example. The boy does not frown upon the fact that train is late. Rather he sees everything at the station as being wonderfully exciting. Though Chesterton may have a point it might be important to remember that many people will encounter difficulty looking at life through the lens of a child. Embarrassment will overtake them and they will feel isolated from the world. As many people who have chased their hats might feel.
It is this embarrassment that an individual feels which will stop an individual chasing their hat as they know that those onlookers who notice what is happening are laughing at the individual rather than with them. Something that Chesterton does not mention in the essay. For Chesterton life is simply better when society drops its guard and allows for the individual to be themselves without being overtly criticized by society. However the reality in life is very much different. Society likes to laugh at the mishaps that occur in an individual’s life. It helps society to deflect away from its own problems or worries. It is easier to laugh at another person than to reflect on one’s own misfortunes. Something that will not change regardless of Chesterton’s assertion that it is good to laugh at a man chasing a hat. One point in whereby Chesterton might be right is on the matter of men chasing after women. Though this in itself may be deemed by some to be ridiculous. It is nonetheless acceptable to society. So as such it does not merit the same attention for others. People will notice a man chasing his hat quicker than they will notice a man chasing a woman down the street.
Chesterton may also be suggesting that society should look closer at itself and realign itself with his train of thought. Which would be a romantic view on life that is not necessarily productive. Taking the flooding in London as an example. For Chesterton there is a degree of excitement. However for those who live in London. The flooding of their homes may be something that could be considered detrimental and costly. That is if an individual has the necessary funds to refurbish and redecorate their home. For some rather than the flooding being romantic it could lead to homelessness and poverty. Chesterton is looking at life through tinted glasses and not really being honest with the reader. Flooding causes tremendous damage and hardship for some and it is difficult to look at the devastation that flooding causes as being an adventure to be enjoyed. It is also interesting that Chesterton is able to split himself into two separate camps. The outlook of a child and the outlook of an adult. Though the reader is left wondering as to what might trigger Chesterton to view life through the eyes of an adult.
If anything Chesterton simplifies situations in order to maintain a romantic view on life. Something which may leave some readers to suggest that Chesterton is simply wrong on his outlook. Life itself is not a simple matter and is in fact complicated by man himself. On the other hand Chesterton’s outlook does have some validity and may be of benefit to people. Life can be much simpler and less annoying should an individual be positive in their outlook regardless of the mishaps they may incur. A positive mind will rectify a negative situation quicker than a negative mind will. In reality a person with a positive mind is difficult to defeat. Although maintaining positivity when facing negativity can be difficult. Something that Chesterton does not admit to nor does he see it as being important. For Chesterton positivity is something that an individual can immediately switch on. The case of Chesterton’s friend and the drawer being an example. Chesterton simply isn’t being practical though his romantic view on life is admirable. However as mentioned Chesterton may be looking at things through tinted glasses or from a distance. He himself has not mentioned as to whether he struggles when it comes to admitting to running after his hat. Chesterton has chosen to look outward rather than inward. Something that society itself does.