Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Besides the tree and its blackbird occupant, “The Japanese Quince” has a number of other symbols. Both Nilson’s mirror, at which he gazes in the story’s second paragraph, and the scrolled stairs leading up to his house suggest the themes of self-knowledge and the aesthetic versus the pragmatic. When Nilson searches in his mirror to find the cause of the disturbing sensation, he mistakenly looks for the physical or superficial rather than within himself. At the story’s conclusion he remains a mystery to himself, like a scroll (the shape of his stairs) that has remained wound up rather than being unrolled and read. Conversely, what he is missing from life is, at the same time, suggested by the mirror and stairs. Though his hand glass has its practical side (literally), its back is made of ivory, which is there for its aesthetic appeal. Though his stairs are eminently usable, their scrolled design is beautiful rather than utilitarian.

That the Japanese quince is enclosed in the “Square Gardens” suggests a social and human-made confinement of nature, paralleling the main characters’ repression or walling off of things natural. The tree and blackbird themselves have manifold symbolic aspects. The blackbird resembles in some respects both Nilson and Tandram. They are both dressed in their business “uniforms” of formal black frock coat; they, like the blackbird singing in the tree, have been emotionally stirred by spring and the Japanese...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Modernism in Art and Literature
In the decade immediately before World War I, the constraints of the Victorian Age were slowly...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Omniscient Narrator
An third-person omniscient narrator relates the events of the story. Galsworthy's choice in narrative...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1910: On May 31, the Republic of South Africa is formed after the region gains independence from Great Britain.


(The entire section is 217 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Galsworthy's story is, in part, a meditation on peoples' relationships to each other. What does he mean by saying that Mr. Nilson was...

(The entire section is 192 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

"The Apple Tree" (1934) is one of Galsworthy's most popular stories. A man returns to the moors of Devonshire, where many years before he had...

(The entire section is 227 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Field, Louise Maunsell."Mr Galsworthy in War and Peace,'' in The New York Times Review of Books, March 28, 1920,...

(The entire section is 335 words.)