What is a brief summary of Strife?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Strife was written in 1909, and so is out of copyright. It may be read in full online, including the Gutenberg.org link below. Here is a brief summary.

A strike at a tin plate factory has lasted for over two months. The board members and the union have been unable to come to an agreement, and the union has abandoned the workers as their demands are too high. While other members of the board are more sympathetic to the workers, the Chairman, John Anthony, is obstinate in his refusal to deal. It is clear that the workers are living and working in terrible poverty, but their pleas are unimportant to Anthony, who believes that the workers have no right to dictate terms,

ANTHONY. We didn't seek the quarrel.

EDGAR. I know that sir, but surely we've gone far enough.

ANTHONY. No. [All look at one another.]

WANKLIN. Luxuries apart, Chairman, we must look out what we're doing.

ANTHONY. Give way to the men once and there'll be no end to it.

WANKLIN. I quite agree, but--

[ANTHONY Shakes his head]

You make it a question of bedrock principle?

[ANTHONY nods.]
(Galsworthy, Strife, gutenberg.org)

A union representative, Simon Harness, tries to mediate, but is met with refusal. Meanwhile, some of the workers want to end the strike, but their leader, Mr. Roberts, refuses because his wife is dying. Her illness is brought on by cold and hunger, both of which Roberts blames on the poor working conditions. Roberts even refuses help from the sympathetic daughter of Anthony, because he is determined to defeat the corporation and get better terms. During a meeting between the workers and Harness, Roberts reignites the strike with his powerful speech, but is informed that his wife has died. The other men take this as a warning that the lives of their families are in danger, and so accept the union terms. Meanwhile, the board's position is weakened by the death of Mrs. Roberts; they decide to come to terms with the union, and Anthony threatens to resign. At the meeting with Harness, the board votes against Anthony, and he resigns. Roberts arrives just as the union terms are accepted; despite the resolution, it is implicated that the strike has been unnecessarily harsh on everyone, and both sides should have agreed to resolve the issue through the union in the first place.

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