The artist and his art choke in a highly commercialised world, where success is determined not by excellence but by advertisement. Discuss this statement with reference to the story, ‘Quality’.
‘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 story deals with the woes of such artisans in the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, where mass production compromised on quality and led to the slow decay of the cottage industries and the artists associated with such industries.
The Gessler Brothers are portrayed in the story as traditional craftsmen associated with the business of shoemaking. The narrator of the story knew them from his childhood days as he used to visit them for getting his father’s shoes made by them. Later on he himself started getting all his shoes made by them. He did so because he was a quality-conscious man and could not find better shoes in London than those made by the Gessler Brothers. From this acquaintance, the narrator has hinted about the traditional artists, who tailor-made goods with their own hands using the best of material and taking their own time to produce a ‘quality’ product. However, the narrator came to realise the woes of the Gessler Brothers only when Mr. Gessler discussed at length the conditions and hardships of his business, caused by stiff competition from big firms, which mass-produced goods using machines and sold them in the market by luring the customers with advertisements. But the Gessler Brothers were not willing to compromise on quality and they found it difficult to exist in the industrialised world, marked by mass production and cut-throat competition. Since they made everything by hand, without using any machine or help, they took a pretty long time and in the process lost their customers. Whatever money they got, they used it to pay the rent and to buy best quality leather.
For an artist, his workplace is a sacred area, where he likes to work undisturbed. The Gessler Brothers had two little shops, let into one, most “fashionably placed in the West End” in London. They worked from this place day and night, performing all the activities from attending to customers, taking the measurements and orders, working on the leather, designing the shoes and giving the finished product. In this shop, they had a work area, reached by wooden stairs and when they had to leave that area, they felt disturbed as if they had been woken up from their dream of boots or like an owl surprised in daylight. But due to dwindling customers and business, they could not afford the rent and had to part with one half of their shop to a big firm, selling shoes. Mr. Geasler‘s elder Brother was so shocked at being their sanctom sanctorum that he could not bear this pain and died.
Despite losing his brother and a part of his Shop Mr. Gessler could not give up his commitment to excellence because for him shoemaking was a sublime art. He never worked for money but for the love of his art. In fact, he was the personification of the ideals of quality and excellence. He continued to endure hardships and watched helplessly his business being taken ever by big firms. It shows that such craftsmen as Mr. Gessler resign themselves to their fate and continue to endure it silently as manifested by the words “slow Starvation”. This shows the gradual decay and death of the handicraft industry caused by the new factory system.
Thus, the story poignantly depicts the woes of the artisans, who did not go with the tide by adopting new methods of production initiated by the Industrial Revolution. This led to their downfall in the world ‘where success is determined not by excellence but by advertisement’.
ISC Echoes Workbook Answers