Quality by John Galsworthy
In Quality by John Galsworthy we have the theme of commitment, determination, loyalty, honesty, dedication and loss. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed man the reader realises after reading the story that Galsworthy may be exploring the theme of commitment. For the entire duration of the story Mr Gessler spends all his time in his shoe shop. At no stage does Galsworthy take Mr Gessler from the shop. This may be important as Galsworthy may be using the setting of the story to highlight to the reader the commitment that Mr Gessler has when it comes to making boots. He appears to spend all his time working. Something that becomes clearer to the reader towards the end of the story when the young man tells the narrator that all Mr Gessler did was make boots. The young man considering that Mr Gessler was so committed to his job that he even went as a far as forgetting to eat. Mr Gessler’s commitment to his work is important because in his eyes he considers himself to be an artist. He devotes all his energies to his work just as an artist would. He also strives to make the best boots possible just as an artist would attempt to make the best piece of art that they could.
It is also interesting that the narrator buys all his boots, with the exception of one pair, from Mr Gessler and that the one pair that was not purchased from Mr Gessler ends up causing problems for the narrator. This could be important as Galsworthy could be highlighting the fact that Mr Gessler’s boots are the best and the narrator is a loyal customer. It might also be important that when the narrator tells Mr Gessler about the pair of boots that do not fit him well. Mr Gessler makes every effort to rectify the matter. This would suggest that not only is Mr Gessler looking after his customers but that he is honest too. Where many would say there is nothing wrong with the boots. Mr Gessler doesn’t. He is prepared to admit that maybe the boots need fixing. He is allowing the narrator to politely question his craftsmanship. Something that many craftsmen would not allow. But Mr Gessler is not like other craftsmen. Not only is he committed and dedicated to his work but he is also prepared to fix things that may not be right. Putting the customer first.
It might also be important that Mr Gessler despite the loss of his brother continues to work. It is as though the most important thing in Mr Gessler’s life is to make boots that are comfortable and long lasting for people. Something that would further play on the theme of commitment. Mr Gessler does not appear to mourn the loss of his brother which may leave some readers to suggest that not only is Mr Gessler committed to his work but he is also driven. Despite the fact that the bigger shops are talking his business away. Mr Gessler does not give up. He continues to work to the best of his ability. For Mr Gessler life is work and he is determined to do the best that he can for his customers. Though some critics might suggest that Mr Gessler is better off selling his shop due to the competition from the other bigger shops. It might be a case that Mr Gessler is not driven by money. What drives Mr Gessler is his strong desire to make the best boots possible. Though he needs money to live, pay rent and buy leather for the shop. Money is only secondary to Mr Gessler. His primary goal is to satisfy the customer with the best possible boots that can be made.
The end of the story is also interesting as there is a sense of loss when the narrator discovers that Mr Gessler has died. Though the exact cause of death is unknown what is really striking is that Mr Gessler worked right up to the time of his death. Which would further highlight to the reader just how committed Mr Gessler was. Though he was most likely losing money due to the bigger shops Mr Gessler never gave up. He lived his life as an artist would. Committed to his work. Every pair of boots that Mr Gessler made where for him a piece of art. Something that many critics will find hard to dispute. Even though times changed Mr Gessler and his methods didn’t. He knew from looking at a boot whether he had made it or not. The reader sensing that each boot for Mr Gessler was his way of contributing to society. He wanted his customer to be not only happy with his boots but to be able to be comfortable wearing them. Mr Gessler cared about what he did. He was dedicated to his work and wanted to make quality boots. Unlike the bigger shops in whereby profit was and is the main goal.