John Galsworthy's Conscience and First World War Disablement
Edinburgh University Press
School of Arts and Humanities
The article traces, from a literary perspective, John Galsworthy's (1867–1933) conscience in his fictional depictions and non-fictional discussions of those damaged and disabled by World War One. It notes that, for the duration of the War, Galsworthy was tireless in his writing crusade on topics relating to the hostilities, but fell silent on these matters after the War, when he returned to his much broader range of topics. Through its references to both narratives and essays, the article demonstrates Galsworthy's strong advocacy for restoring disabled men to dignified work and self-respect, whereby they can continue to fulfil their vital masculine role in society, including their romantic life. As is shown in the article, Galsworthy believed that this restorative period could involve re-training for more challenging work than men had undertaken before the War. The article stresses Galsworthy's holistic approach to men's restoration in his constant reminder to the nation that, for this to take place, both the mind and the body need equally to be healed. While adequate resources were needed for rehabilitation requiring training establishments and technology for prosthetic limbs, often the most effective psychological restoration entailed no funds at all, especially when it encompassed therapy through women's beauty and through the human-animal bond. The article includes Galsworthy's wider focus, too, on civilian adults and children who were wounded and disabled by the War. It also compares Galsworthy's views on rehabilitation and healing with those of modern commentators, and illustrates how, for his time, some of his ideas were particularly advanced.