In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown went to someone, Mr Aylmer, who was asking for protection against another one who wants to kill him, but the priest wasn't sure whether this man has only a monomania, or he is really being chased by someone. So Father Brown went to him without prior notice, and the man was a little afraid of the priest.

Something about Mr Aylmer’s unrestful eye prompted the priest to go straight to the point. If the man’s persecution was only a monomania, he would be the less likely to resent it.

“I was wondering,” said Father Brown softly, “whether it is quite true that you never expect visitors.”

“You are right,” replied his host steadily. “I always expect one visitor. And he may be the last.”

For which thing does "it" refer here? I can't get the whole meaning of this sentence?

If it means "going straight to the point", what's the relation between that and determining whether if this man has only a monomania, or he is really being chased by someone?

1 Answer 1


"It" refers back to "go[ing] straight to the point".

If the man's thoughts are dominated by paranoia (the monomania in this story), then he will sense that any indirect questions asked by Father Brown are attempts to find something out about him without being open about it. General questions and comments that are often used to break the ice, e.g. comments about the weather, would sound irrelevant and therefore irritating to someone who expects his murderer to enter the house at any moment.

However, Father Brown probably does not want to let out immediately that he knows about this real or imaginary threat, so he gives Mr. Aylmer the opportunity to explain his fear by asking whether it is true that the man does not expect visitors. He thereby implicitly admits that he has heard rumours about this and that this is the reason for his visit. This allows the conversation to move straight to the point.

  • But why he mentioned "only" here? Does this mean that if he was really chased by someone, not only monomania, he would be (more) likely to resent it?? May 9, 2020 at 9:25
  • 1
    Father Brown assumes that Mr Aylmer's mental state is not worse than monomania. If it is worse, the man's reaction may be less predictable, but the text does not tell us how Father Brown thinks the man would react in that case. And we never find out in the remainder of the story.
    – Tsundoku
    May 9, 2020 at 18:49
  • Now, it's so clear. Thank you very much. May 9, 2020 at 21:51

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