‘Quality’ establishes and upholds the dignity of labour and the almost spiritual character of craftsmanship. Discuss.
‘Quality’ by John Galsworthy is a pathetic story that depicts a German Shoemaker’s efforts to survive in an era, where success is determined by advertisement and not by quality. The very mention of the word ‘quality’ gives the impression that the author must have something to say about the degree of excellence achieved by someone or something. It makes the readers think about what or on whom the story is based upon.
The Gessler Brothers refer to the two brothers, who were in the business of shoemaking and lived in London during the Industrial Revolution. Of the two brothers, Mr. Gessler, the younger one, is the protagonist of the story. He was a man of integrity, having complete dedication for his work. For him his business of shoemaking was not merely a craft but a sublime art. He made only what was ordered to him by his customers. In fact, the shoes made by him were custom fit to each individual customer, whose measurements he took by drawing a pattern taken from the customer’s foot size. He himself worked on every piece of leather, with the only support being that of his elder brother, who made equally good shoes.
They never compromised on quality and excellence, even if that meant overworking, dwindling customers and consequent starvation and ultimately, their death.
It was the ‘quality’ of the shoes made by the Gessler Brothers that drove the quality-conscious customers like the narrator repeatedly to their shop and made them order more than their requirement.
They were so perfect in their art of shoemaking that it made the narrator wonder if they had seen the soul of the shoes. The shoes they made had something beyond the ordinary, “incamating the very spirit of all foot-gear”. And, due to the superior quality of leather used and every effort made to attain perfection, the shoes lasted terribly long.
With time Mr. Gessler was forced by circumstances to give away a part of his shop. His elder brother could not get over the pain of losing one half of their shop and died. Mr. Gessler, despite losing his brother and part of their shop, continued his business of shoemaking with the same commitment as earlier. In fact, his commitment to his work was so strong that he gave himself no time to eat and relax, even when he did not have a penny in the house. All his profit went in giving rent and buying the best quality leather. In his mind, his commitment to his work and the satisfaction of his customers far outweighed his own needs. He iinally died of “slow starvation”.
Mr. Gessler, the artist died but his art continued to live through his admirers and customers like the narrator.
Thus, it’s the ‘Quality’ that establishes and upholds the dignity of labour and the almost spiritual character of craftsmanship.
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