Galsworthy stories


I’m reading Galsworthy’s wartime and post-war stories at the moment (as collected in Caravan). The one-act play Defeat, which I mentioned a while back, is indeed more or less identical to the 1916 story of the same name.
There’s a post-war (1919) story called The Dog it was that Died, which ties in interestingly with the viciously anti-German poem by Frankau that I posted yesterday. It is about “all the ugly human qualities and hard people which the drive and pressure of a great struggle inevitably bring to the fore…”.

An acquaintance of the narrator is an unexceptional character before the war, but becomes transformed by his hatred of the Germans –


“in the slack times of peace he discovered no outlet for the grim within him – his fire could never be lighted by love, therefore he drifted in the waters of indifferentism. Now, suddenly, in this grizzly time he has found himself, a new man, girt and armed by this new passion of hate; stung and uplifted, as it were, by the sight of that which he can smite with a whole heart.”

He works hard at arranging the internment of Germans – even those with whom he had got on well before the war. His hatred turns him precisely into the thing he professes to hate, obsessed and dishonourable (he breaks his word to the narrator, for the sake of interning yet another German). He becomes increasingly restricted by his hatred, which continues even when the war is over; the narrator reflects that “It was of his own state of mind that he would perish…”

It’s the narrator that bothers me in this story, and in some others by Galsworthy. He is the decent man ruefully observing a difficult world, seeing cruelty that he is powerless to alter. Which is exactly the position that the reader is placed in when reading these stories. Too many at a sitting become rather frustrating.





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