Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
The Forsyte Saga, in particular The Man of Property, is John Galsworthy’s most enduring work. It is the story of one upper middle-class family in England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The most important character is Soames Forsyte, the title character of The Man of Property. He is a successful lawyer and a collector of paintings. He is married to Irene Heron, whom he and society regard as his property. At the climax of the book, Soames rapes her. Galsworthy was horrified at the situation of a woman who is forced into the sexual act with a man she does not love. He did not agree with the prevailing attitude of the time that a husband had the right to his wife’s body.
In Chancery picks up the story several years later. Soames and Irene are still legally married, but separated. Soames becomes obsessed with the need to father a son, but Irene refuses to go back to him. Soames then casts his eye on a young Frenchwoman, Annette Lamotte. The only ground on which Soames can divorce Irene, however, is adultery, but she had not taken a lover. Irene has developed a friendship with Soames’ cousin, Jolyon Forsyte. They are seen together in public, but it is only after Soames confronts them that they consummate their relationship. They do not contest the divorce proceedings, so Soames marries Annette, and Jolyon and Irene legally become husband and wife.
The book ends with the...
(The entire section is 385 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Man of Property. It is 1886, and all the Forsytes are gathered at Old Jolyon Forsyte’s house to celebrate the engagement of his granddaughter, June, to Philip Bosinney, a young architect. Young Jolyon Forsyte, June’s father, is estranged from his family because he ran away with a governess, whom he later married after June’s mother’s death. Because of the ensuing scandal, June has grown up in the home of her grandfather.
Old Jolyon complains that since June became engaged he has seen little of her. Because he is lonely, he calls on Young Jolyon, whom he has not seen in many years. He finds his son painting watercolors and also working as an underwriter for Lloyd’s. Young Jolyon has two children, Holly and Jolly, by his second wife, and Old Jolyon comes to dote upon them. Old Jolyon, who has the tenderest heart among the six Forsyte brothers (there are ten siblings in all) realizes that he wishes for a complete reconciliation with his son.
The family knows that Soames, son of Old Jolyon’s brother James, has been having trouble with his lovely wife, Irene. She has developed a profound aversion for her husband and has recently reminded him of her premarital stipulation that she should have her freedom if the marriage were not a success. Desperate to please her, Soames plans to build a large country place at Robin Hill and hires June’s fiancé to design and build the house.
When Soames suggests alterations to...
(The entire section is 1372 words.)