Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

John Galsworthy is a novelist who grew in stature between the era of Victorian certainties and the era of post-World War I despair and doubts. Once conflicts in his personal life were resolved, he began to portray with increasing vigor in his fiction those segments of the British upper classes which he felt were most in need of constructive criticism. In the preface to THE COUNTRY HOUSE, Galsworthy remarks that birth into the upper class or the aristocracy is no reason for complacency. At the same time, he discounts those who mistake his attitude for that of a revolutionary. In fact, he argues that by taking seriously the criticisms he offers, radical change can be rendered unnecessary.

Before the two world wars had shaken the institutions of the world to the breaking point, the English country house was symbolic of many of the strongest traditions of the aristocracy. In this novel, readers see what happens when one such house is threatened with disrepute and, perhaps, eventual destruction because of the careless attitude of one of its sons. Galsworthy also gives a vivid account of the prejudices and feelings of English society, including the pettiness of some of its members. Everything, however, remains indestructible and, through the deft handling of one of its more insignificant members, society comes away without even a blemish.

THE COUNTRY HOUSE is a strong novel, especially in its detailed exposure of the pettiness and...

(The entire section is 536 words.)