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Q1. Discuss Justice as a social tragedy.

Ans. A. C. Ward remarks,


"Justice is a commentary upon the prison administration of that period."

The word 'Justice' can be interpreted in various ways. At the fundamental level it stands
for the principle of justness, fairness and impartiality and implies moral rightness. The word also
refers to the functioning of the legal system- the dispensation of the impartial judgment by the
process of the law. Justice is, further, the title conferred on a judge. Justice, in retrospect, has
ironic undertones for whereas we are led to expect conduct in accordance with the principle of
justness, what Galsworthy actually exposes is the injustice and iniquity of man-made systems of
law. The whole play is a caustic comment on the discrepancy between the intrinsic nature of the
term justice and the administration of it in the law courts. Falder's act of forgery is a crime in the
eyes of the society but the punishment meted out to him is out of proportion with the seriousness
of the offence. Galsworthy uses as his mouthpiece the young attorney, Hector Frome, who
indicts the legal system as being least concerned with human character, situation and suffering.
His rhetorical question
"Is a man to be lost because he is bred and born with a weak character ?"
underlines this ruthless aspect of so-called justice and his warning
"Imprison him as a criminal, and I affirm to you that he will be lost"
goes unheeded by judge and jury. Falder is imprisoned in the cage of the Law, never to escape.
The playwright raises serious questions about the fundamental purpose of justice 'is it meant only
for punishing the wrongdoer or is it intended for correcting the erring individual and
rehabilitating him as a responsible and trustworthy member of society? 'Justice is an illusive term
and Galsworthy's intention is to make the audience pause and ponder over the meaning of such
an abstract word. In the play, Falder and Ruth appear as puny creatures, lost in the complicated
labyrinth of the law, from which they can never emerge to freedom. Their only option is to make
an unsavoury compromise with the situation. In Ruth's case, she leaves her husband and becomes
the mistress of her employer, in Falder's case; he forges references to get a job after leaving
prison. Death is, of course, the last resort and Falder, caught in the vortex of social forces,
commits suicide. The tragic irony is that the symbolic blindness of impartiality of Justice has
unfortunately become the blindness of complete indifference.

In "Justice," the dramatist has succeeded in writing a tragedy which contains no character
vicious in itself. Falder, a solicitor's clerk, is, of his type, perfect; without ambition, yet without
vice. The sole thing that differentiates him from the thousands of his fellows is that he has fallen
in love with a woman who is ill-treated by her husband. This fact spells tragedy for Falder. In
order to fly from the country with Ruth Honeywill, he forges a cheque to obtain the necessary
means. Discovery follows. Falder is delivered to justice by his just and conscientious employer;
he is tried by a just and conscientious Judge; he is condemned to three years' penal servitude; and
we actually see him in durance vile, where three of the most amazingly just and conscientious
men on record—the Governor, Chief Warder, and Prison Doctor—hold counsel, to the end that
Falder's lot in prison may be made an agreeable one. After two and a half years Falder is released
on ticket of leave. His imprisonment makes him a marked man, and he is unable to obtain
employment. As a last resource, he goes to his old employers and asks for a further chance.
However, unknown to him, an insurmountable obstacle stands in his way. His old love, Ruth
Honeywill, has had to leave her husband, and has been forced by circumstances to earn her living
by what the Sherriff in "Blanco Posnet" very acutely terms "the primrose path." Falder, after his
release, resumes his perfectly innocent intimacy with her; but his old employers, knowing of the
woman's former life, refuse to engage him unless he cuts short his intimacy with Ruth. Their
refusal leads Falder slowly to a realization of the ghastly fact that the woman, whom he
venerates, has suffered the contamination of the streets. At this moment, when the horror of his
disillusionment lies as a thick cloud over Falder, a detective arrives to arrest him for a minor
offence, which will mean at the most a short term of imprisonment; but Falder, with the bark of
his soul foundering upon the rock of his shattered ideal, sees nothing but unimaginable misery
ahead; the fair fruit, the vision of which had lightened the days of his incarceration, has turned to
dust and ashes in his grasp. He flings himself down a flight of stone stairs, and is picked up—
dead.

The play opens in the office of James How & Sons, solicitors. The senior clerk, Robert Cokeson,
discovers that a check he had issued for nine pounds has been forged to ninety. By elimination,
suspicion falls upon William Falder, the junior office clerk. The latter is in love with a married
woman, the abused and ill-treated wife of a brutal drunkard. Pressed by his employer, a severe
yet not unkindly man, Falder confesses the forgery, pleading the dire necessity of his sweetheart,
Ruth Honeywill, with whom he had planned to escape to save her from the unbearable brutality
of her husband.
" Falder. Oh! sir, look over it! I'll pay the money back--I will, I promise. "
Notwithstanding the entreaties of young Walter How, who holds modern ideas, his father, a
moral and law-respecting citizen, turns Falder over to the police.

The second act, in the court room, shows Justice in the very process of manufacture.
Young Falder, a nervous and rather weakly youth of twenty-three, stands before the bar. Ruth,
his faithful sweetheart, full of love and devotion, burns with anxiety to save the young man,
whose affection for her has brought about his present predicament. Falder is defended by Lawyer
Frome, whose speech to the jury is a masterpiece of social philosophy. He does not attempt to
dispute the mere fact that his client had altered the check; and though he pleads temporary
aberration in his defense, the argument is based on a social consciousness as fundamental and
all-embracing as the roots of our social ills--"the background of life, that palpitating life which
always lies behind the commission of a crime." He shows Falder to have faced the alternative of
seeing the beloved woman murdered by her brutal husband, whom she cannot divorce, or of
taking the law into his own hands. He pleads with the jury not to turn the weak young man into a
criminal by condemning him to prison.
" Frome. Men like the prisoner are destroyed daily under our law for want of that human
insight which sees them as they are, patients, and not criminals. . . . Justice is a machine that,
when someone has given it a 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 ? Is he to
become a member of the luckless crews that man those dark, ill-starred ships called prisons? . . .
I urge you, gentlemen, do not ruin this young man. For as a result of those four minutes, ruin,
utter and irretrievable, stares him in the face . . . The rolling of the chariot wheels of Justice over
this boy began when it was decided to prosecute him."
But the chariot of Justice rolls mercilessly on, for--as the learned Judge says--
"Your counsel has made an attempt to trace your offense back to what he seems to suggest is
a defect in the marriage law; he has made an attempt also to show that to punish you with
further imprisonment would be unjust. I do not follow him in these flights. The Law what it is--a
majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another. I am concerned only
with its administration. The crime you have committed is a very serious one. I cannot feel it in
accordance with my duty to Society to exercise the powers I have in your favor. You will go to
penal servitude for three years."
In prison the young, inexperienced convict soon finds himself the victim of the terrible
"system." The authorities admit that young Falder is mentally and physically "in bad shape," but
nothing can be done in the matter: many others are in a similar position, and "the quarters are
inadequate." In scene -II, the governor visits the cells of those convicts who are going through
the period of solitary confinement. The playwright has taken this opportunity of revealing the
state of mind and thoughts of these unfortunate men. The common complaint is of monotony,
where the prisoners find the silence over-powering. Falder admits to being nervous but tells the
sympathetic governor that he is quite well, mentally. The doctor too finds nothing wrong with his
health but admits that Falder would be better off working in the shops (or the workrooms where
prisoners were obliged to do hard labour). The governor reflects that it is, after all, Christmas
Day. The irony of people celebrating the birth of a savior, within the bleak walls of a convict
prison is emphasized by the playwright.

The third scene of the third act is heart-gripping in its silent force. The whole scene is a
pantomime, taking place in Falder's prison cell. Through this Galsworthy presents the deep
agony of a helpless man, Falder in the solitary confinement. There are no words spoken, but the
mute distress of Falder is used to convince the audience of the unfairness of this form of
punishment. The scene arouses not only our pity and fear, but also our hatred for the system. The
scene culminates with Falder banging his fists against the iron door of the cell the symbol of the
agonized human soul, yearning for freedom.

Falder leaves the prison, a broken ticket-of-leave man, the stamp of the convict upon his
brow, the iron of misery in his soul.
"Falder. I seem to be struggling against a thing that's all round me. I can't explain it: it's as if
I was in a net; as fast as I cut it here, it grows up there. I didn't act as I ought to have, about
references; but what are you to do? You must have them. And that made me afraid, and I left. In
fact, I'm--I'm afraid all the time now."

In the final act, Galsworthy has presented the resolution of the plot. The scene is once
more the office of James and Walter How, two years later. Ruth, as in the first act, arrives early
in the morning and begs Mr. Cokeson to find a job for Falder in the firm. She has met him after
his release from prison and she describes his desperation for a job. Cokeson agrees to help.
Falder's condition worries him, for the young man seems to have lost his interest in life, a strange
thing in one so young. Rejected even by his own family, the only joy in his life is the love and
support of Ruth. The two partners come in while Cokeson is speaking to Falder. Sending the
young man out of the room, Cokeson appeals to James How to re-employ him. James is reluctant
to have an ex-convict working in the firm, but unbends after Cokeson continues to plead with
him. However, his agreement is conditional because he is adamant that Falder should dissociate
himself from Ruth. Thanks to Ruth's pleading, the firm of James How & Son is willing to take
Falder back in their employ, on condition that he give up Ruth. Falder resents this:
"Falder. I couldn't give her up. I couldn't! Oh, sir! I'm all she's got to look to. And I'm sure she's
all I've got."
It is then that Falder learns the awful news that the woman he loves had been driven by the
chariot wheel of Justice to sell herself.
"Ruth. I tried making skirts. . . cheap things. It was the best I could get, but I never made
more than ten shillings a week, buying my own cotton and working all day; I hardly ever got to
bed till past twelve. I kept at it for nine months.... It was starvation for the children.... And then ...
my employer happened--he's happened ever since."
James then prevails upon Ruth to give up Falder for his own good. Miserable and helpless she
agrees. Cokeson sends Falder inside to give him time to cope with his unhappiness. At this
terrible psychological moment the police appear to drag Falder back to prison. This time it is
because Falder, as an ex-convict, has failed to report himself to the police and they have also had
reports that he has been trying to secure employment on the basis of forged references. James
refuses to reveal Falder's whereabouts, but Wister, seeing his cap lying on the table, realizes
Falder is on the premises. It is a pathetic sight as he leads the doomed young man away.
Completely overcome by the inexorability of his fate, Falder throws himself down the stairs,
breaking his neck. There is an overwhelming sense of sadness at the waste of a young man's life.

The socio-revolutionary significance of "Justice" consists not only in the portrayal of the
in-human system which grinds the Falders and Honeywills, but even more so in the utter
helplessness of society as expressed in the words of the Senior Clerk, Cokeson,
"No one'll touch him now! Never again! He's safe with gentle Jesus!"

John Galsworthy himself remarks,

"Justice made a great sensation, especially in Parliamentary and official circles."


The play 'Justice' is a social tragedy. It deals with the life of a common man, a junior
clerk, William Falder. He commits a forgery under the pressing need of money for helping the
wretched woman, Ruth Honeywill. She is tortured by her husband and Falder wants to drag her
out of that drudgery. Falder is sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment for the act of
forgery. But when he is released, he is not treated as a citizen of the civilized society. He tries his
best to get some re-employment but he could not get job at all. When at last he goes to James, he
is again arrested by Wister on another charge of forgery. But being afraid of the horrible prison
life, Falder throws himself down and finishes his life. Thus the whole play is a tragedy.

Galsworthy was writing in an age of democracy and in a democracy it is the common


man that suffers. In the age of democracy nobody is a monarch but every common man has got
an importance of his own. In democracy man is important. His merits and conditions are
important. Here the common man is crushed not by any super-natural power or by gods but he is
crushed by the force of an impersonal blind faith of social conventions and customs. Ruth cannot
get divorce from her husband easily. Falder and Ruth cannot lead their life happily together
though they love each other intensely. Their relationship was against the existing Victorian
morality. The conventions, customs, laws, code of conduct and the morals are all the creations of
society. In the Victorian England people were very particular about morality. That is why Falder,
once declared as a criminal can never get an employment in the civilized society. Falder and
Ruth are the victims of the rigidity of modern existence. Even the educated people and the men
of social status like James cannot stand against the blind social conventions. Therefore, we can
say that the play Justice is a social tragedy which does not invoke in us awe but it certainly
invokes pity and pathos for the hero. The dramatist believes in the inner goodness of the man
and shows that criminality is the common law of humanity. Justice mainly dwells on the
circumstance under which the crime is committed. The dramatist shows the problem of crime
and penal servitude from the humanitarian point of view. He also shows how inevitable
circumstances force the young man to commit a crime. His love for Ruth is earnest and his
sympathy for her is genuine. The play Justice impresses on the audience how solitary
confinement crushes the spirit of Falder, the tragic hero of this play. His mental agony, sorrow
and despair are powerfully presented in act III scene III in which not a single word is uttered by
Falder. It shows that he is tortured from within. When Falder comes out of the prison, he is
completely broken in spirit and in body. He is just a skin and bones. When Mr.Cokeson enquires
about his health, he answers in a hopeless tone that he is alive.

George Samson says,


"Justice is a legal diagram used to harrow the feelings of the audience with the horrors of the
prison life."
Q2. Discuss Doll's House as a modern tragedy.

Ans. A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen, though written in the late 1800s, is a modern tragedy as
a modern tragedy is a play in which the tragic protagonists are ordinary middle-class or lower-
class individuals. It presents a woman's journey towards self-liberation in a patriarchal society.
From the opening scene of the play, Nora Helmer is clearly the subordinate in her marriage with
Torvald. Many of his pet names towards her are references to animals which denote that her role
in the marriage is a less than human one. Nora's positioned herself into a doll-like role, as she
accommodate Torvald's needs; there is little to no reciprocity. The tragic heroine, Nora is an
everyday woman. Her tragic downfall began taking place when she decided to commit fraud to
rescue her husband. . Nora, the heroine is guilty of committing forgery. This act of indiscretion
makes the villain, Krogstad, blackmail her. She has committed this incriminating deed in order to
save the life of her husband, Torvald Helmer. But Helmer, instead of appreciating the sacrifice of
his wife, indicts her as a liar and criminal, unfit to rear their children any longer. However, she is
ultimately saved by the intervention of her old friend (of her school days), Mrs. Christine Linde,
who manages to bring about a change in the heart of Krogstad. Helmer is willing to forgive Nora
for her rash act. Krogstad frees Nora from exposure and shame. But, Nora does not stay with her
husband. She leaves her home and children to learn the way of the world and experience the
brave new world. Nora readily adjures the traditional role of a puppet wife and a doll – mother
for the sake of gaining self–liberation, individuality and independence.
“HELMER: But this is disgraceful. Is this the way you neglect your most sacred duties?
NORA: What do you consider is my most sacred duty?
HELMER: Do I have to tell you that? Isn't it your duty to your husband and children?
NORA: I have another duty, just as sacred.
HELMER: You can't have. What duty do you mean?
NORA: My duty to myself.”

The play tries to probe the true base of the man–woman relationship in its most intimate
forms of marriage. Nora is perfectly aware of outsider’s opinion about her. They opine that she is
a wasteful, silly young woman without character. She becomes very much annoyed, when she is
told by her friend Mrs. Christine Linde that she knows “so little about the troubles and hardships
of life”. She is proud of her act in borrowing money to save her husband’s life without his
knowledge. She understands, however, that if Helmer knew of her independent act, it would
affect their healthy marital relationship. She knows her husband’s whims and fancies thoroughly.
She helps to keep his proud image of himself as the head of the family. She knows that he loves
her for being pretty amusing. Nora’s ability to get on with her husband well does not come to her
aid in her dealings with other. When Krogstad threatens her, Nora tries her various tricks without
any avail. She cannot understand that the world outside her house is often ruthless and that it
does not submit to her romantic notions of duty. Having a very high opinion of her motives,
Nora cannot believe that she has done wrong in forging her father’s signature to obtain money or
that the law will punish her, or that Krogstad would do anything to disrupt her happy and
comfortable family life. All actions of Nora are governed by her relationship with her husband.

A Doll's House was based on the life of Laura Kieler (maiden name Laura Smith
Petersen). She was a good friend of Ibsen. Much that happened between Nora and Torvald
happened to Laura and her husband, Victor, with the most important exception being the forged
signature that was the basis of Nora's loan. In real life, when Victor found out about Laura's
secret loan, he divorced her and had her committed to an asylum. Two years later, she returned to
her husband and children at his urging, and she went on to become a well-known Danish author,
living to the age of 83. In the play, Nora left Torvald with head held high, though facing an
uncertain future given the limitations women faced in the society of the time. Ibsen wrote A
Doll's House at the point when Laura Kieler had been committed to the asylum, and the fate of
this friend of the family shook him deeply, perhaps also because Laura had asked him to
intervene at a crucial point in the scandal, which he did not feel able or willing to do. Instead, he
turned this life situation into an aesthetically shaped, successful drama. Kieler eventually
rebounded from the shame of the scandal and had her own successful writing career while
remaining discontent with sole recognition as "Ibsen's Nora" years afterwards.

A Doll’s House is a naturalistic or realistic play. It is an anti-romantic play both in its


theme and setting. It deals with the problem of man – woman relationship through the mirror of
marriage. The play deals with variety of themes. The Chief among them is “the liberation of the
individual from the shackles and restraints of custom and convention” Conscience and moral
laws are of two kinds, one for men and another is quite different for women. A woman cannot be
herself in modern society. It is an exclusive male society, with laws made by men and with
prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.
“Helmer: I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora- bear sorrow and want for
your sake. But no man would sacrifice his honour for the one he loves.
Nora: It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done.”

In a 1986 performance review, New York Times contributor Walter Goodman declared that A
Doll's House is "a great document of feminism, and Nora is an icon of women's liberation."

Ibsen believes that a stage should be a place for confronting real social, economic,
psychological problem through the medium of individual destiny. Ibsen in his play A Doll’s
House highlights the day–to–day contemporary reality of a middle class family. Though the play
projects the male chauvinistic society, it also deals with various problems. A doll with a human
figure is normally found in the hands of children, who make the doll act according to their wish.
Similarly, Nora is a doll in the hands of three persons, namely Torvald Helmer, Krogstad and her
father. Nora is judged from the eyes of men. To them, she has committed forgery and is a cheat
but it is not so. She has done everything only for the betterment of her family. Not even a single
room is given for her wish or her passion or her emotion; rather she is treated as a puppet, whose
acts are controlled by their masters. Right from the beginning of the play, we can witness male
chauvinism and the pathetic figure of Nora who is scapegoat for male chauvinism. She is being
treated as a doll throughout. Torvald Helmer wishes that Nora should act according to his wish.
Nora is protected, petted, dressed up, given pocket money but she is not allowed to be herself.
Though Torvald Helmer is a lawyer by profession, he is the representative of male chauvinism
who thinks that his orders has to be carried by her wife, as he is the head of the family It is he,
who holds the key to the letter box in his house. It is Torvald Helmer, who has full control over
his wife in every aspect. She plays the doll with her husband just to please him.

"Nora: I have existed merely to perform tricks for you, Torvald. But you would have it so. You
and papa have committed a great sin against me. It is your fault that I have made nothing of my
life. Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife, just as at home I
was papa's doll-child; and here the children have been my dolls. I thought it great fun when you
played with me, just as they thought it great fun when I played with them. That is what our
marriage has been, Torvald."

In Ibsen's drama A Doll's House, he writes about a modern social tragedy. Ibsen's play is
considered modern drama. Ibsen broke away from the romantic tradition with his realistic
portrayals of individual characters and his focus on psychological concerns as he sought to
portray the real world, especially the position of women in society. In 1879, a wife was not
legally permitted to borrow money without her husband's consent, so Nora must resort to
deception to borrow the money she so desperately needs. No doubt, A Doll's House is a social
tragedy. In a time when divorce was stigmatized, Nora leaves Torvald with the intentions of
divorcing him. She is weary with the facade that she has been keeping. Nora can no longer play
house. She is so unhappy being Torvald's doll. She can no longer pretend that all is well in the
Helmer household.
“NORA: I must stand on my own two feet if I'm to get to know myself and the world
outside. That's why I can't stay here with you any longer.”

Ibsen has chosen a very apt title for his play. "Doll" signifies passivity, beauty, and the
basically feminine nature which is seen in Nora when we look at her from outside. The word
"house" also has symbolic suggestions and thematically significant connotations. "House", as
contrasted to "home", means 'a structure or shelter to live in', unlike "home" which means 'a
house where one's family lives and one gets love and care". "Home" is an emotively charged
word, whereas "house" is not. So, in the case of the title of this play, the word 'house' as the
connotation of 'just a place to live in', 'a shelter', 'a lifeless thing', and so on. Indeed, for Nora, the
house of Helmer has never been a home; it has been a house.

The title is significant to society and entrapment within the house. Ibsen represents Nora
as a doll. Nora therefore reacts in the same way as a doll, trapped in a house. Helmer has power
over Nora and treats her as a doll, his doll. During this play we acknowledge the truth underneath
the prettiness of 'A Doll's House'. The title, A Doll’s House, also highlights the principal theme
of marriage and subservient role of women in society. It symbolically suggests that true marriage
is not based on illusions and fantasies. It does not work like the mechanical manipulation of the
dolls. True marriage will depend upon the perfect understanding between the couple by each
respecting the individuality of the other.

A doll's house relentlessly reveals the great lie beneath conventional roles play by man
and woman in their marriage; here love and marriage are dramatically scrutinized. In mental
makeup Helmer is less liberated than Nora herself, he reveals himself as being a pitiable and
egotistic slave of patriarchal society of which he is so conspicuously a defender. Helmer’s
selfishness is reflected in his failure to appreciate Nora’s sacrifice. He is thoroughly
unsympathetic to Nora, he never understands what Nora has been going through all these years.
Helmer is the representative of rising middle class society of nineteenth century. Helmer has also
inherited all the pretensions, fears, prejudices and petty –mindedness of the middle class. Nora
knows that if Helmer was to get a loan or be in debt, he'll be very ashamed. He will be socially
embarrassed. People were meant to conform to their stereotypes and behave in a conventional
manner. His social status is important to him. Under the mask of liberty this society has all the
features of tyranny. Ibsen criticizes this society in A Doll’s House, in the final scene his heroine
Nora utters :

“I must try to discover who is right society or I”.