Further Critical Evaluation of the Work
It was with the production of STRIFE in 1909 that John Galsworthy’s reputation as one of Britain’s foremost playwrights was established and, although one of his earliest stage works, it remains, in the opinion of most critics, his finest dramatic effort. Even today, when the issues of economic agitation and social change have become much more complex and ambiguous than they seemed in Galsworthy’s time, STRIFE retains its power and relevance because it is not rooted in the problems of a particular situation, but in a clash of wills between sharply defined, forceful, believable characters.
The ostensible dispute in STRIFE is between the Directors of the Trenartha Tin Plate Works and their striking workers, but, as the play progresses, it becomes evident that the conflict is actually between John Anthony, the Chairman of the Directors, and David Roberts, the leader of the strikers. Thus, the play is not so much about Capital versus Labor as it is about the relationship between leaders and followers and the thin line that separates dedicated, courageous idealism from egocentric, self-destructive fanaticism.
Both leaders are adamantly opposed to compromise and have, at least for most of the play, the power to impose their views on the others. Each of them sees the conflict solely in terms of total victory or abject defeat. Both Anthony and Roberts believe that the future of the entire economic and social system is...
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