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J. Galsworthy
The Man of Property
Text Analysis

The extract under consideration is taken from John Galsworthy's novel "The Man of Property". From the point of view of its structure it presents a piece of narration, which is an account of the main character's actions, a piece of character drawing (a psychological portrayal of the main character) and an inner monologue which is Galsworthy's favourite method of characterization.

It is impossible to say who is the narrator in this extract, thus the conclusion may be made that the narration is anonymous. Though, the reader is made to feel the author's attitude towards the main character and the event described in the passage with the help of numerous stylistic devices which will be commented upon further.

The theme of the excerpt is the main character's (whose name is Soames) discovering that his wife had left him and taken nothing of her personal things. And the idea is deep feelings and suffering which Soames has to experience because of that and the contradiction between his feelings and his sense ofproperty. The author mentioned that he ``betrayed the Forsyte in him" meaning that such sorrows are uncommon for the Forsytes, all of whom are men of property despising human weakness.

The plot is rather eventless and consists mainly in describing the main character's actions and thoughts. It includes all the traditional elements. Besides, the story may be divided into five logically completed parts.

The narration and the first part, which is the exposition, begin with Soames's leaving his parents' house and going home. It may be entitled "Winter was come" by the quotation from this part as it describes the cold winter weather on that day and its contrast with the warmth of Soames's parents' house and also symbolizes the winter in his own heart which came after his wife had left him. As the key words and sentences may serve the following phrases, which can be divided into the ones connected with the warm feeling: her large soft kiss, a flush of warmth, and the ones connected with the coldness: the cold wind, frosty greeting, winter was come, none from Irene - which is the last sentence in this part. So, after leaving the parents' house Soames set off to his own one. Though the weather was nasty, he seemed not to notice it. On reaching his house he took the late letters from the gilt wire cage hoping to find one from his wife. But it wasn't there.

Galsworthy resorts to characterization through surroundings, which helps the reader to understand the feelings of the main character and makes him part and parcel of the surroundings.

This part contains several stylistic devices: lexical and syntactical. First of all the mentioned above contrast between the warmth of his parents' house and the weather outside and inside his heart is created with the help of vivid epithets, such as: large soft kiss, a sky of clear steel blue, alive with stars, frosty greeting, shabby furs, pinched faces. Also some metaphors can be found in this part helping to describe the general atmosphere of the described events and the contrast: a flush of warmth in his cheek; wind, which whistled desolately round the corners of the streets (a sustained metaphor). Among the syntactical devices partial inversion should be mentioned: at ten o'clock Soames left, in reply to questions he had said...; a case of syntactical parallelism: he noticed... neither their frosty greeting, nor the crackle of the curled-up plane leaves, nor the night women..., nor the pinched faces of vagabonds at street corners. This device helps to make the reader feel the monotony of what was happening around the main character and his indifference to it due to his inner sufferings.

The second part of the passage begins with the words "he went into the dining-room..." and ends with "he opened it''. The title which may be given is "Searching for a message" as the part gives a description of Soames's actions after his coming home to disclose some message, some note from his wife explaining her leaving him or, perhaps, giving at least a slight hope for her coming back. The key words and sentences are as follows: he went into the dining-room, her room was dark and cold, a great illumination with candles, pacing up and down, searching for some message, some reason, some reading, drawer after drawer was untouched, perhaps...it was only a freak, it was her duty as a wife, she did belong to him, she was evidently not quite right in her head, the jewel box had the key in it.

In this part Soames went first into the dining-room but realizing that Irene couldn't have left anything for him there he turned out the light and decided to look for some kind of a message in her room, which was dark and cold in contrast with all the other rooms in the house. Examining it, Soames opened all the drawers, where he found all her dresses, linen, and silk things untouched. Then follows an inner monologue presenting Soames's reflections upon the reasons of his wife leaving him and his inability to understand such an action. His "man of property" instincts fight in his mind with the growing anxiety and pain because of being rejected by the woman he loved. Finally Soames decided to check the drawer where Irene had kept her jewels and he found that the box wasn't locked. Naturally, he opened it.

This part is a very important one in creating the suspense which the reader can't but feel it shows the growing anxiety and the nervous tension of feelings of the main character and at the same time gives an obscure premonition that something terrible must happen. The same end is served by the numerous stylistic devices employed in this part, all of which are syntactical. At the very beginning of it the reader comes across syntactical parallelism - the repetition of Absolute Nominative constructions: the fire was bright there, his chair drawn up to it, slippers ready, spirit-case, and carven cigarette box on the table... In the next sentence a case of antithesis is found: there was a fire too in his dressing-room, but her room was dark and cold. It serves to show the contrast between the warmth of Soames' house still inhabited by him but her room, being desolated by Irene, is dark and cold, as if symbolizing the feeling in Soames's heart. The emphatic construction "it was into this room that Soames went" is used to show how the hero strings up his resolution for entering it as it was not easy for him at all to do that: he had all kinds of emotions and fears of what he might find there.

To create suspense the author makes ample use of parallel syntactic constructions: some message, some reason, some reading; he would never again do as he had done, never again run that risk..., he would never again run that risk. And introducing the inner monologue of the character, the author skilfully shows the dismay of his mind trying to find a reasonable explanation and hope but failing. Even in Soames's thoughts there is reiteration found: it was her duty, her duty as a wife. And, again, there is an emphatic construction "though she did belong to him" which helps the reader to see the way Soames tried to convince himself that it was his wife's caprice and she had no other way but to return to him. But deep inside he understood that it was wrong. But being a man of property, a strong and reasonable husband he wouldn't listen to his inner voice saying things controversial to the sense of property according to which a woman like Irene treated by her husband, getting all the things she wanted, couldn't leave the husband.

The third part begins with the words "it was far from empty" and ends with "and that was all". An appropriate title would be "A note from Irene", and the key words and sentences are: it was far from empty, a three-cornered note addressed "Soames Forsyte", I have taken nothing that you or your people have given me, and that was all.

In this part Soames found out that Irene's jewel box was not empty at all - she had left all the jewelry that he or his relatives had given her. She had taken nothing that didn't belong only to herself. In the box Soames found a note explaining her decision not to take all those things. It was at this point that Soames definitely realized that his wife had left him forever and would never return.

As the part is rather small not many stylistic devices are employed, but the feeling of growing suspense is still present in a very high degree. Complete inversion is used several times: "...divided, in little green velvet compartments, were all the things... "; "and stuck into the recess that contained the watch was a three-cornered note addressed "Soames Forsyte".

The fourth part, having for a title "Soames's feelings and emotions" begins with the words "He looked at the clasps and bracelets..." and ends with "... was lifted into the pure ether of the selfless and unpractical". As the author emphasizes the main character's inner sufferings the key words and sentences must describe those feelings: ``the tears rushed up in his eyes, the inner significance of her act, she loathed him, people living in different worlds, she was to be pitied, he betrayed the Forsyte, the pure ether of the selfless and unpractical''.

The fact that his wife had taken none of his gifts to her revealed to Soames the inner significance of Irene's act, all his hopes were destroyed in one moment. Now he understood that all the time that they had been married she had loathed him and that they had been living in different worlds: his was the world of property and hers was the world of emotions.

To make the reader understand the depth of Soames's inner crisis the author employs a number of stylistic devices.

Among the lexical stylistic devices are: three metaphors "the tears rushed up in his eyes and dropped upon them", "he betrayed the Forsyte in him" and "was lifted into the pure ether of the selfless and unpractical", which show Soames's moment of weakness as a Forsyte would call it, or the moment of natural human suffering because of the loss of a beloved person. They make the reader involuntarily compare Soames's tears with the precious stones in Irene's jewels and describe his complete understanding of his wife's deserting him. That is why this very verb is repeated several times "he understood nearly all there was to understand - understood that..." and this reiteration is immediately followed by syntactical parallelism combined with another case of reiteration of the verb "to loathe": "that she loathed him, that she had loathed him for years, that for all intents and purposes..., even, that she had suffered - that she was to be pitied" and in the same sentence there is a comparison: "they were like people living in different worlds". All that creates a peculiar feeling that the reader is overflowed by Soames's thoughts and feelings.

The end of this part is the climax of the story: "in that moment of emotion he betrayed the Forsyte in him - forgot himself, his interests, his property - was capable of almost anything; was lifted into the pure ether of the selfless and unpractical". It is the highest peak of Soames's suffering, when he is ready even to forget the essence of the soul of every Forsyte - the sense of property - just to make that woman return to him. If only such self-denial could help! But that was only a moment's weakness, which is shown in the fifth part.

And in the last part, having for a possible title "The triumph of the sense of property in Soames" and for key words "such moments pass quickly, he had purged himself of weakness, locked the box" Soames managed to gain control over his emotions after acting so unlike a Forsyte. The sentence "such moments pass quickly" is the denouement of the story and it immediately follows the climax as if getting the reader back to reality in a very abrupt way and destroying all the charm of the moment.

His weakness passed very soon and he locked the box of jewels, this action is very symbolic and signifies his drawing a line at this hopeless relationship and also the victory of his sense of property. The way he carried that box with him out of her room into another one is the ending of the passage and a relief of all the feelings and emotions. In this part several lexical devices are found helping to imagine Soames's state of mind. Syntactical devices are not needed anymore as there is no more tension and no necessity for suspense. A simile is employed to describe his relieving from that pain "and as though with the tears he had purged himself of weakness". Now Soames became the same man of property that he used to be.

On the whole the mood of the text is rather dramatic, especially in the inner monologues, at the end it is pathetic and emotional.

As it is clear from the above mentioned, the main character of the passage is Soames Forsyte, called by the author "the man of property". Some remarks have been made about the method of characterization: it is indirect, mainly with the help of inner monologues, revealing the feelings and fears of the hero and through the surroundings: the weather outside, Irene's room, dark and cold.

Our attitude towards this passage is intricate. On the one hand, we deeply sympathize with Soames, which is obviously one of the author's aims. It seems to us that he is trapped in that sense of property and it destroys his happiness. On the other hand, that sense is also a kind of a guard for him as it finally overpowers all other feelings and prevents him from suffering long. We pity both Irene and Soames as both of them were unhappy but due to many reasons couldn't solve their inner problems and conjugal ones. It is brilliantly described by Galsworthy without imposing the author's opinion on the reader but gently making him understand the depth of the conflict described. Within a very few pages a whole drama reveals itself but without any superficial exaggeration, which is an important feature of Galsworthy's quiet and restrained art.

Далее: Texts for the Analysis Вверх: Учебное пособие для студентов Назад: J. Galsworthy The Man

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