The Ball and The Cross

Cover image for


Author: G.K. Chesterton
Published: 1909
Language: English
Wordcount: 79,909 / 228 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 79.7
LoC Categories: PS, BL
Downloads: 4,279 1677

The adventures of two men, one an atheist, the other a Catholic, who want to fight a duel over God and the Virgin Mary. The world thinks them both mad, of course, because they seem to be serious, and the story ends by shutting up in a lunatic asylum all the people who are sane enough to care one way or another about their quarrel.

Show Excerpt

oment, in the front of an interminable line of palings, when his eyes were opened. Not a light shifted, not a leaf stirred, but he saw as if by a sudden change in the eyesight that this paling was an army of innumerable crosses linked together over hill and dale. And he whirled up his heavy stick and went at it as if at an army. Mile after mile along his homeward path he broke it down and tore it up. For he hated the cross and every paling is a wall of crosses. When he returned to his house he was a literal madman. He sat upon a chair and then started up from it for the cross-bars of the carpentry repeated the intolerable image. He flung himself upon a bed only to remember that this, too, like all workmanlike things, was constructed on the accursed plan. He broke his furniture because it was made of crosses. He burnt his house because it was made of crosses. He was found in the river."

Lucifer was looking at him with a bitten lip.

"Is that story really true?" he asked.

"Oh, no," said Michae


Average Rating of 4.5 from 2 reviews: *****
M. Patterson

I found startling the point that society is moving torward the view that all religious belief is personal, that faith should not be held as a perspective on an external truth (Otherwise, one might say that another man is wrong in his beliefs). What it shows is that Postmodernism was already at work even in his time, though Modernism was considered the driving force behind the two World Wars and the Holocaust.

Otherwise, it is an amusing tale of two enemies who just can't seem to find a private place where they might kill each other. If it isn't the interference of people, then it's the interference of nature. The plot is absurd enough to point at the fatalism behind it.


A very entertaining treatment of the battle of ideas within the secular and the sacred played out within two men's stylized duel. I found the beginning and ending of the book a little hard to follow, perhaps incongruous at times, but the body of the novel is humorous as well as thought provoking. I've been reading a lot of GKC of late and this ranks with his best works. Highly recommended.

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