Galsworthy’s Justice draws human attention to some specific social anomalies. The whole story presents a social structure during the time of John Galsworthy. Bitter issues related to so-called legal justice, prison administration, and the maddening impact of prison life are vital points of the plot. Some say the play shows the courage to stand for the weak-willed, unintentional offender against the crude justice system. It means Galsworthy’s Justice appeals for mercy. And here lies the most crucial question.
The question is whether the playwright truly appeals for mercy for the greater interest of humanity. Or it is a mere notion.
It is undeniable that the play Justice is a social tragedy. The portrayal of the ruthless nature of some invincible social forces is the lifeblood of the storyline. These forces acquire the shapes of various social institutions over time. And they don’t hesitate to treat human feelings heartlessly. The most painful truth is apparently, none of these institutions ever emerge as harmful. However, their way of delivering opinions unveils their tendency to despise humanity.
In reality, the implication possesses two-sided meanings. One aspect shows no deliberate ill-will from individuals. On the other way, the activities of these individuals as an essential tool of the social structure can’t deny the responsibility behind human suffering.
It is true, for sure, that various social forces – the Judge, police, defence counsel, prison officials all sit for social justice. They act to maintain the well-being and security of the entire community. They aim to conserve and sustain the status quo of the existent societal ethos and disciplines. And the plea behind all these acts is to deliver social justice.
The Judge’s words, “The law is what it is, a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another” – affirm preserving the said societal disciplines. However, the play reveals that while exercising justice, the required quality of mercy is buried or lost. Moreover, the absence of this quality of mercy finally leads to the tragic end in Justice. And, during this portrayal of dreadful ending, readers can sense Galsworthy’s Justice appeals for mercy.
John Galsworthy has portrayed this whole story on an ordinary youth Falder who is guilty of committing minor forgery. In a moment of emotional weakness, he alters a cheque of his masters. And, Falder is not a hardcore criminal. Moreover, he has committed the crime only to save a woman from her brutal husband.
Now, as part of the ongoing process, Falder is detected and arrested. And, according to the existing law, he is then prosecuted and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment. John Galsworthy depicts the story addressing the bitter side of the living judiciary system. During the time of exerting justice, the Judge utters some vital words to prove his impartiality. However, his strict neutrality fails to hear the agony of a genuine soul. Also, the Doctor of the prison and the Governor are not so sympathetic. The court order shackles their compassion. And, Falder is left for terrible sufferings.
But the storyline doesn’t end here. Falder fails to enjoy relief even after his release. This time the society creates more pain for him. It doesn’t hesitate to tag him as jail-bird. And, his search for a job goes in vain. Falder feels infinite mental pain. The impact of legal justice makes his life severely miserable. To make himself free from this trauma, he finds no choice but to kill himself.
In actual words, the stubborn wheels of justice become successful in chasing and crashing a true heart. Legal procedure overpowers the required human compassion and conscience. It compels Falder to face the wrath of the so-called impartial judiciary by snatching away even a little scope of mercy. The absence of sympathy from the vital social institutions forces the victim to end his life. It emerges that the existing judiciary doesn’t have the willingness to judge human nature with empathy and mercy.
It is indeed true that Galsworthy unlocks all the above pictures to make a genuine appeal to justice for mercy. The playwright has successfully sketched the bitter reality of his time. For him, it is agonizing to see how a lot of prisoners like Falder are destined to face doom. He is the witness of strict law, devoid of genuine human insight.
In a word, the playwright discloses the flaw in exercising legal justice. There is no denying that justice must prevail to diminish the pace of criminality. But, justice without possessing the quality of mercy is meaningless. If the argument fails to comply with the human conscience while exercising justice, it is no more than a soul-killing effort. The famous English playwright’s arguments support that conscience in his play. In short, Galsworthy’s Justice appeals for mercy.
Through his play, John Galsworthy appeals for an urgent reformation in the judicial system of his time. His words through various characters have rightly pinpointed that a society without a sense of mercy is identical to regressive. On the other hand, a community with generosity and compassion must be progressive and morally advanced.