John Galsworthy as a Social Propagdandist: A Voice for Economically and Socially Oppressed


John Galsworthy, the 1932 Nobel Laureate, is best known problem playwright and novelist in the 20th century. His is the collections which treats of a particular social or moral problems so as to make people think intelligently about it. It is usually somewhat tragic in tone in that it naturally deals with painful human dilemmas. It is a kind of writings that, by implication, asks a definite question and either supplies an answer or leave it to us to find. One of his best known plays The Silver Box deals with the inequality of Justice, Strife with the struggle between capital and labour, Justice with the cruelty of solitary confinement, The Skin Game with the different values of the old aristocracy and the newly rich businessman, Loyalties with class loyalties and prejudices and Escape with the inadequacy of the administration of justice and attitude of different types of people toward an escaped prisoner. His dramas frequently find their themes in this stratum of society, but also often deal, sympathetically, with the economically and socially oppressed and with questions of social justice. 

His Fictional World:

Meanwhile, his fiction is concerned principally with English upper middle-class life;Most of his novels deal with the history, from Victorian times through the first quarter of the 20th century, of an upper middle-class English family, the Forsytes(class for the accumulation of material wealth, a drive that often conflicts with human values).The Forsyte series includes The Man of Property, the novelette “Indian Summer of a Forsyte” (pub. in the collection Five TalesIn ChanceryAwakening, and To Let). These five titles were published as The Forsyte Saga. The Forsyte story was continued by Galsworthy in The White MonkeyThe Silver Spoon, and Swan Song, which were published together under the title A Modern Comedy. These were followed in turn by Maid in WaitingFlowering Wilderness, and Over the River, published together posthumously as End of the Chapter

John Galsworthy as a Social Reformer: 

Galsworthy was a social reformer, objectively and impartially posting a problem, showing always both sides of the question, and leaving his audience to think out the answer. His chief protagonists are usually social forces in conflict with each other, and the human features in his drama, though real enough and very true to ordinary life, are studies more as products of these force than an individuals who are of interest for their own sake.

General Features of Galsworthy’s Writings: 

All the plays of Galsworthy exhibit the same features the omnipresence of a fundamental social problem expressed in a severely natural manner, without straining of situation or exaggeration of final issues, a corresponding naturalism of dialogue, leading at times to an apparent ordinariness, a native kindness of heart added to the sternness of the true tragic artist, and a complete absence of sentimentalism even when pitiful scenes are introduced. About the effectiveness of his naturalistic technique Galsworthy has no doubt, and this is why he says, “The aim of the dramatist employing naturalistic technique is obviously to create such an illusion of actual life passing on the stage  as to compel the spectator to pass through an experience of his own, to think and talk and move with the people he sees thinking, talking, moving in front of him”.

Evaluation of Justice

Justice is a propaganda and seems to have been conceived on an ecstasy of rage against human oppression. The hero is not unjustly imprisoned because he altered the figures of a cheque. In this play the real criminal is not the Falder but civilized people, society and its prison system. Galsworthy in his play Justice does everything to draw the attention of his audience to the evil of solitary confinement and its shattering effect on the prisoners. Justice made  a great impact not only on the audience but it created a sensation in the British Parliament and official circles. The government was given a Jolt and the prison commission was appointed to revise the prison laws. If not for anything else, on this score alone Justice can be considered as one of the most successful and important sociological plays of the first half of this century. All of Galsworthy’s collections are realistic approaches to social problems and in his Justice the entire social fabric, the legal system and the prison administration stand exposed as the play finds it’s denouement in the death of Falder who is more sinned against than sinning.

Ardhendu De