Critical Evaluation

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

George Douglas Brown’s reputation rests on this single novel, THE HOUSE WITH THE GREEN SHUTTERS. Born at Ochiltree in Scotland to a poor family, he managed to attend Glasgow University and Oxford. In 1895, he went to London as a freelance writer. Not until 1901 with THE HOUSE WITH THE GREEN SHUTTERS did he win recognition. The novel was praised by Andrew Lang and was well received in England and the United States. His royalties in the summer of 1902 brought him the only financial ease he ever knew, but in August of the year, he suddenly died.

This one great novel is modeled on classical Greek tragedy. It is a vivid picture of cottage life in a Scottish village with finely drawn characters and realistic atmosphere; the peasant humor running through the book has been compared to that of Hardy. The citizens of Barbie are preoccupied with scandal when they are not grubbing for an existence. Beyond work, their concerns are narrow and petty; they are malicious, often from mere boredom. The villagers act as a Greek Chorus, standing around the square commenting on the principal characters and the life in the village. They also fill in background for the reader.

The author places a heavy emphasis upon “character.” If a person is weak, he is doomed. As hubris might cause the fate of a Greek tragic hero, so stupidity or moral weakness causes the fate of these Scottish villagers. John Gourlay is proud, ambitious, and eager to make...

(The entire section is 470 words.)