Further Critical Evaluation of the Work
John Galsworthy considered himself to be a “naturalistic” playwright, by which he meant “to create such an illusion of actual life passing on the stage as to compel the spectator for the moment to lose all sense of artifice, to think, talk and move with the people he sees thinking, talking and moving in front of him.” But most of his dramas are the antithesis of what writers like Zola, Strindberg, or Norris meant by “naturalism.” Galsworthy’s characters have too much free choice in determining their lives and, although pressured by society, too much responsibility for their own fates to fit into the bleak, deterministic naturalist category. An important exception, however, can be seen in JUSTICE. It follows the pattern typical of such plays and novels; one extremely fallible human being, acting impulsively and irrationally, makes a small, unavoidable mistake and is thus caught up in the implacable, impersonal social system and destroyed by it.
In the powerful second act courtroom scene, Hector Frome, the defense attorney for the victim, sums up the case for mercy—and charts the course of the play:Frome: If the prisoner be found guilty, and treated as though he were a criminal type, he will, as all experience shows, in all probability become one. . . . Justice is a machine that, when some one has once given it the starting push, rolls on of itself. Is this young man to be ground to pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of weakness?
And that is, of course, exactly what happens to him. Given the rigidity of the law plus the Victorian attitudes toward private property, marriage, and sex,...
(The entire section is 678 words.)