Literature: 1932

Monday, November 16, 2009

Galsworthy, John (1867-1933), an English novelist and playwright, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. He has an important place in English realistic literature because of his relatively objective descriptions of the society of his time. He was also deeply concerned with the social problems of his day.

Galsworthy's best-known work is The Forsyte Saga. It is a trilogy (series of three novels) consisting of The Man of Property (1906), In Chancery (1920), and To Let (1921), plus brief connecting interludes. Around the main character of Soames Forsyte, Galsworthy pictured a declining upper middle-class society from the 1880's to the years after World War I (1914-1918). He continued the story in a later trilogy, A Modern Comedy, consisting of The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), and Swan Song (1928). Many of the same characters appear in a third trilogy--Maid in Waiting (1931), Flowering Wilderness (1932), and One More River (1933). They were collected as End of the Chapter.

In his record of the Forsytes, Galsworthy dealt with the conflict between idealism and love of worldly things. He also captured a sense of time's pitiless passing and of an era's inevitable decay.

Galsworthy's plays brought a new sense of social responsibility to English drama. The Silver Box (1906) contrasts the law's treatment of rich and poor people. Strife (1909) dramatizes the stubbornness of opposing leaders of a strike. Galsworthy's severe picture of solitary confinement in Justice (1910) led to prison reforms. Loyalties (1922) deals with social conduct and racial prejudice. Galsworthy's plays pursue these social issues through simple, direct dialogue presented in a naturalistic style. Galsworthy was born in Kingston Hill, Surrey.

Contributor: Garrett Stewart, Ph.D., Professor of English, University of Iowa.


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