From the story "The Japanese Quince," how is a very slight plot used to provide considerable illumination of life?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I remember reading this short story for the first time and thinking "Is that it?" Certainly simplicity and elegance are its defining characteristics. Yet, if we look at the basic plot, which concerns nothing more on surface level than a chance meeting by a tree of two neighbours, we can see that the details Galsworthy provides us with yields a wealth of material that comment a lot about our lives and in particular our relationships with both nature and our fellow humans.

Mr. Nilson is shown to be someone who is profundly alienated from nature. He goes to walk in the park to shake off an uncomfortable feeling, which only increases when he takes a turn in the park. Note how the feeling is described: of some sweetish liquor in course within him, together witha faint aching just above his heart.

His first reaction is to think of whether he has eaten anything that could have made him sick, rather than to realise that this response is due to the joy of spring coming. Note as well the way that his automatic reaction to the quince tree is to analyse it and to want to know what type of tree it is, rather than being able to simply enjoy it.

Mr. Wilson is not just alienated from nature, however, but he is also clearly alienated from his fellow man. His stilted conversation with Mr. Tandram is the epitome of awkwardness, as he regrets that his wife was not there to keep Mr. Tandram from him. At the same time, he recognises that Mr. Tandram is a pleasant man, and when he returns to his home, Mr. Wilson finds that he is "Unaccountably upset." Mr. Wilson is so focused on business and work that he is completely unaware of how he has distanced himself from the world around him and those in it. This is the truth that the simple plot of this story explores.


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