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On the Reification Theme in John Galsworthy’s the Island Pharisees

Author SuYan
Tutor HuQiang
School Xiangtan University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Galsworthy The Island Pharisees reification morality social novel
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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John Galsworthy is an outstanding writer in the history of English realistic literature. The Island Pharisees is regarded as his first important social novel which arouses the attention of the public and the critics. The conflict of material interests and emotional world is the main social theme of this novel. The protagonist named Shelton embodies Galsworthy’s thoughts in this novel. During the three-month journey, he confesses himself and reflects upon present condition of British society. The reflection and confession of Shelton embody in his interactions with three typical representatives. Then, how do the creatures of good form represented typically by Mrs. Dennant who is Shelton’s prospective mother-in-law become slaves of commodities in the pursuit of material comforts? Why does Shelton find himself in a dilemma through his several associations with a vagrant named Ferrand? Why does gorgeous Antonia who will become his fiancée choose a binding contract which isn’t based on true love? How does Antonia gradually reify herself through her dealings with Shelton? This thesis will make the analysis of the above issues.The theory of Lukacs’s Reification is gradually evolving from the angle of ideology criticizing commodity fetishism, whose introduction, development and extension have their unique historical context and social conditions. The thesis borrows it to analyze the developmental logic among reification between individuals and object, the reified interpersonal relations and the individual’s self-reification in the novel. Its developmental logic not only expresses Galsworthy’s reflection and critique towards traditional moral concept and value standard, but also implies his suffering consciousness of the phenomenon of reification in the work.This thesis is divided into three chapters. Chapter one focuses on reification between individuals and object. First of all, it analyzes a phenomenon of reification between“The Creatures of Good Form”and commodities. When those who belong to the upper and middle ranks of society pursuit material pleasures, they are gradually reduced to the slavery of material commodities. Then, through lots of details of the text, this thesis illustrates how Mrs. Dennant shows her excessive fascination and worship of commodities and consequently becomes a slave of commodities in some social activities. Chapter two concentrates on reified interpersonal relations. It attaches great importance to discuss how Ferrand obtains Shelton’s monetary assistance by taking advantage of his unique insights expressed in the letter. Chapter three pays more attention to the individual’s self-reification. As Shelton’s Fiancée, Antonia regards herself as a commodity for sale. She desires to obtain property and power through selling her own beauty. In the end, she gets lost in the material world. Finally, this thesis considers that the unique value of intellectual history of The Island Pharisees is that it vividly demonstrates some of the early human tendency to be reified among capitalist countries. It is through describing their contacts in detail among Shelton and the above three types of characters that Galsworthy vaguely expresses a desire for bridging the reality and the ideal. It can be said that The Island Pharisees not only fully shows Galsworthy’s self-reflection and self-criticism, but also his calm reflection and deep criticism towards the British middle class in the swirl of material society.

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