John Galsworthy's play Strife is the story of a workers' strike at a tin factory and the conflict between John Anthony, the chairman of the board, and David Roberts, the leader of the strike. Thus the play revolves around issues of social reform, including the dangerous working conditions, long hours, and low wages that were common during the early 20th century.
Anthony has no concern for the wellfare of his employees and prides himself on his ability to break strikes by refusing to negotiate. Roberts, however, refuses to end the strike until all of his demands are met. When a Trade Union official attempts to mediate between the two parties, both men are unwilling to compromise.
In the midst of the strike is Roberts's wife, whose poor health cannot withstand the demands of standing outside in the cold or going hungry while her husband both refuses to work and to accept charity for his wife's benefit. Mrs. Roberts's death is the central tragedy of the play, which leads Anthony's family and fellow board members to overrule his decision and Roberts' fellow workers to agree to a settlement in his absence. Because of the tragic flaw of their fanaticism, both men end up defeated and alone.