John Glasworthy : Literary Contribution

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      John Galsworthy has a two-fold distinction in the history of contemporary literature as a novelist and a playwright. But both the kinds are in reality the twin manifestations of the same genius, varying only in their form and technique. The materials of both are the same spectacle of life, the same social milieu. The art applied in both is the "naturalistic (or realistic) art" In his essay on Some Platitudes Concerning Drama Galsworthy has described his art thus: "Naturalistic art is like steady lamp, held up from time to time, in whole light things will be seen tor a space; clearly and in due proportion, freed from the mists of prejudice or partisanship." In other words, every artist must hold the mirror up to nature. He must adorn nothing, distort nothing but present the white light of truth. Again he had said, as to the purpose of art, that "every grouping of life and character has its inherent moral; and the business of the dramatist is so to pose the group as to build the moral poignantly to the light of day" That is, his art is didactic.

As a novelist and a dramatist, Galsworthy deals with the vital problems and sues in the social, cultural, religious and industrial life of the times without any partisanship though his sympathies break out from time to time.
John Glasworthy

      As a novelist and a dramatist, Galsworthy deals with the vital problems and sues in the social, cultural, religious and industrial life of the times without any partisanship though his sympathies break out from time to time. His famous novel The Forsyte Saga traces the history of the family of Soames Forsyte, the man of property' through two generations and in its large canvas it includes many facets of life and many facets of characters. In his pictures and analysis of life and characters he has brought a keen and searching observation, and ironical humour, sharp sensibility, and a polished and urbane style to bear upon his subject. Forsyte Saga is one of the best-sellers among modern English fictions.

John Glasworthy as a Dramatist:

      In the drama, too, Galsworthy adopts the same naturalistic technique in the tradition of Jones and Pinero. He was, too, a great an artist to deal with problems from the stand-point of a partisan and to offer any solution of his own. He dissects them with an impartial and detached attitude, presents both sides of the cases without passion or prejudice. The solution of the problem is not 'obtruded' but only hinted at. In this respect Galsworthy differs from Shaw, who is primarily a propagandist. As Chesterton has observed - "Shaw cannot really divide his mind and let the two parts speak independently. If we want to see a fair artistic balance between two opposite views, we must go to Ibsen or Galsworthy:" Shaw writes as if firing a machine gun at his readers; Galsworthy, as if speaking with an equal in a cultivated prose style. "He looked upon the masses of humanity as mostly victims of their own ignorance and folly and was content to reflect a social problem which we must somehow endure, because there is not solution. It must however be noted that Shaw and Galsworthy are different in their artistic forms. Galsworthy is a tragedian, while Shaw is a comedian. Galsworthy creates tragic pity out of the clinical presentation of the problems of modern men and women. Shaw is serious in his social and philosophical themes, but he presents them in a light-hearted manner with humour, wit and fun. Shaw is a great humorist and his art lies in presenting the ugly facts of life in the sugar-coated pills of laughter and fun. He is a greater thinker than Galsworthy, and he is again a greater joker. Shaw is a more powerful personality and influence in the twentieth century English literature.

      Yet, there is another side of the shield. The question has been often asked - "Did Galsworthy write in cold blood, with his nerves at rest, and his brain and senses normal and showing in a detached manner that which is there, both fair and foul, no more, no less." To this A. C. Ward gives the reply: "Beyond question Galsworthy has honestly striven to give an impartial presentation of his problems. If he has not succeeded in doing so, it is because of one factor which he cannot control. Readers often persuade themselves that they incline towards one side or other because of the deep instincts of harmony and justice planted in the human breast and that Galsworthy has not definitely prompted their inclination. But if the matter is pondered coolly, the conviction grows that the cult of the underdog is the ruling force in his work, and that Galsworthy is a subtle advocate who has deluded himself into believing that he is the presiding judge perpetually engaged in a dispassionate summing up. He does weigh the evidence; he does state the case for each contestant; his intellect does continue to be on both sides at once; but his emotions disturb the balance. On the one side he gives a clear, cold, judicial statement; on the other, his presentation is warmed and coloured by an additional emotional element." Sometimes by the choice of an incident at the climax of a play or through a third party commentator the emotional balance is disturbed.

      As a dramatic craftsman Galsworthy is superior to all other contemporaries and is a contrast to Shaw. Shaw's dramas are really, dialogues in which revolutionary views are developed. The plot is usually sacrificed and is of little importance. Shaw is a comedian while Galsworthy is a tragic artist. Shaw develops his theme through discussions and dialogues. Characters are confronted and clash of ideas is shown through brilliant conversations. But in construction of plots Galsworthy shows a good deal of technical skill. His plots are not over elaborate or complex. His selection of incidents (action's) and the arrangement of the feelings are governed by the central purpose of the presentation of a view of life. All unnecessary details are eliminated. The action progresses steadily to a climax. The element of conflict is there. There is no dull moment in the course of the action. Some of the scenes of his plays are very vivid and unforgettable.

      "His characters are wel-studied and his psychological insight is particularly seen in his studies of integral conflict.... His dialogues and situations are natural and he never lapses into sentimentality or melodramatic distortion." (Albert). All these dramatic qualities are well-illustrated in his plays, particularly in The Silber Box, Justice, Loyalities, Strife, Escape which are mature products ot his genius.

John Glasworthy as a Novelist:

      John Galsworthy's fame as a novelist rests chiefly on The Forsyte Saga - The Saga of Property, In Chancery and To Let. The Second trilogy contained three novels The White Mornkey. The Silver Spoon and Stwan Song which were published together in one volume called A Modern Comedy. Finally there was On Forsyte Change in 1930. There were also two 'interludes' which belong to the first trilogy of the Saga and two in Modern Comedy. All these works go to make the famous Forsyte Saga. "It is at once a triumph of careful and distinguished craftsmanship and a feat of industrious imagination. It is a story of epic scope, greatly conceived and patiently, sometimes brilliantly executed. His other novels are The Country House, The Patrician, The Dark Flower, The Freelands, Saints, Progress and The Burming Spear.

      The Forsyte Saga is an ironical depiction of the greed and narrowness of the upper middle class of the Victorian Society. Galsworthy presents a vivid and clear picture of the Victorian Society particularly of the upper middle classes, the Forsytes and their love of property, social dignity, parental authority, materialism and above all their love of possession. Galsworthy emphasises the possessive instinct of the Forsytes. Soames considered his wife Irene as his property. "For Forsytes what cannot be bought does not exist; art and the things of the spirit are objects to be collected, but not for their own sake, rather as manifestations of their success in life. They are so encrusted with property that they are only half alive; they are pathetic though they do not know it; the life of the emotions, the holiness of the heart's affections are as closed to them as the life of pure thought' (Walter Allen, The English Novel). Galsworthy himself states his theme as the disturbance of beauty in the lives of men, but this is strictly true only of the first volume. Irene and Bosinney stand for art and beauty and their love indicates the disturbing influence of art and beauty in the world of old values tenaciously upheld by the Forsytes.

      Galsworthy's handling of the novel is the flower of the central traditional manner. He aimed at a well-proportioned combination of story and characterisation; he gave his characters a background both of minor characters and physical setting and atmosphere, and he kept his own part as unobtrusive as possible. The reader is the privileged onlooker at a scene so varied and natural as to give the illusion of the fullness of life within the broad limits of Forsyte society. Like Bennett, he had the method of detached and impartial observer but later he evolved the method of observing the spectacle of life from the middle of the road. He sought to present life like his century (see through) in the 'Inn of Tranquility' from the middle of the road representing "that which was there, both fair and foul, no more, no less".

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