Act III of the Silver BoxIntroduction
John Galsworthy is a famous novelist and playwright whose works contains a great deal of criticism of British society, particularly of the values of the well-to-do professional class. Like all the writers of the time, John Galsworthy is a satirist and at bests an ironist.
The Silver Box is a powerful and bitter play. Through the character of James Jones, Galsworthy criticizes the British society in which the rich are favoured by law and injustice is done to the poor.
“Law grinds the poor, and richmen rule the law.”
- Oliver Goldsmith
Mr. Barthwick was a member of the British Parliament. He posed himself as a social reformer who seemed to have great sympathy and compassion for the poor and Dow-trodden people. In a drunken state his dissolute son, Jack Barthwick, stole a lady’s purse. He returned home very late at night. James Jones, a poor and jobless person, happened to pass near the house of Mr. Barthwick. He saw Jack Barthwick trying to find the keyhole on the wrong side of the door. He helped Jack in unlocking the door of his house. As Jack had nothing to give him, so he invited him to have a drink. Jones entered the house with Jack. He drank whisky excessively and under the influence of whisky he stole a sliver cigarette box and the same purse, stolen by the jack. In the morning Thomas Marlowe, Butler to Barthwick, found the silver box missing. He communicated the loss to Mr. Barthwick who sent him to the police station to lodge the report of the theft.
The police acted promptly and arrested Jones along with his innocent wife who was employed as a charwoman in the house of Mr. Barthwick. Jones became violent and resisted the police when they arrested his wife who did not commit any crime. The police took her into custody because they suspected that she might have stolen the silver box or helped her husband in entering the house of Mr. Barthwick. Owing to the scoundrel Mrs. Jones lost her job and had to vacate the house in which she lived with her three children.
Jones was aried in the court of law for stealing the silver cigarette box and making an assault on the police. He was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. He protested against this injustice, for Jack who committed the identical crime, was not punished. He says to Magistrate:
“Call this justice? What about him? He got drunk! He took the purse. But its his money got him off-Justice!”
Mrs. Jones was also tried for stealing the silver box and helping her husband in obtaining access to the house of Mr. Barthwick. But the charges leveled against her could not be proved and she was acquitted. At the end of the trial she looked at Mr. Barthwick with a silent request for re-employment but he made a gesture of refusal and hurried out of the court. Thus the poor family was ruined completely.
The dramatist concludes that it is the poor people who always suffer and pass through mental and physical torture and they are the one, who face these adversities with patience and endurance. While the opulent make use of their resources and enjoy a trouble free life even after committing the most abhorrent crimes.
“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly.”
- Elizabeth Gaskell