The story “Quality” by John Glasworthy upholds the dignity of labour and the spiritual aspect of craftsmanship. Do you agree?
In his story “Quality” John Galsworthy presents a German shoemaker Mr. Gessler, the younger as an epitome of honest craftsmanship. He depicts how true artists like the Gessler Brothers struggle to survive in an age of marketing and advertisement where people are lured to buy even lower quality products from big firms. In doing so the author upholds the dignity of labour and the almost spiritual character of craftsmanship.
The narrator begins his story saying that he knew Mr. Jessler from his youth and he (Jessler) made his father’s boots too. Understandably, the shoemaker made quality shoes and so his customers were very loyal. They would never buy shoes from anywhere else. The narrator highlights the artful mastery of Gessler Brothers and the command they had over their work several times throughout the story.
and it seemed so inconceivable that what he made could ever have failed to fit.
The narrator again expresses his feelings about the shoemaker’s mastery:
…when I was promoted to him, at the age of perhaps fourteen, some inkling haunted me of the dignity of himself and brother. For to make boots — such boots as he made — seemed to me then, and still seems to me, mysterious and wonderful.
The description of the protagonist’s physique including his eyes having ‘the simple gravity of one secretly possessed by the Ideal’ shows the narrator’s admiration for Mr. Gessler. His way of working slow as a perfectionist, his obsession with work neglecting his personal needs and even his indifference to advertise for their work — all indicate how dedicated Mr. Gessler was to the vocation of shoe making. He could think of nothing other than making perfect shoes for his customers. He did not even produce bulk quantities of products. He made only what his customers wanted him to do. It is evident that Mr. Gessler did not bother much about his business. He was more concerned about the work he loved and respected and about keeping the trust and loyalty they had created in their customers. He took shoemaking as an art of which he himself was a great artist:
Isn’t it awefully hard to do, Mr. Gessler?
Id is an Ardt!
Gessler never compromised with quality. He took several days and even weeks to deliver our narrator’s shoes, but never delivered a bad quality product. He was every inch honest to his profession and customer satisfaction was of prime importance to him. When one day the narrator objected that his shoes creaked, Gessler could hardly believed it and promised to give the money back if he could not mend the fault, if any.
The narrator again presents Mr. Gessler’s command over his work by mentioning an incident to show that he could recognise whether the shoes were made by him simply having a look at them. He even could tell where the shoe might be hurting the narrator. Mr. Gessler, as a passionate artist of the art of shoe making was sad not for their dwindling business but for the gradual degradation of the art:
Dey get id by adverdisement, nod by work.
The narrator shows how true craftsmen like the Gessler brothers struggled to survive.
Never gave ‘imself time to eat; never had a penny in the house. All went in rent and leather.
Understandably, Mr. Gessler just wanted to keep his art alive. He never let it go irrespective of its business prospect and paid heavy price in the end. Though the man never got rewarded financially, he earned a permanent place in the hearts of his loyal customers, as well as that of the readers:
“Yes,” I said, “he made good boots.”
Thus, through the presentation of the fighting spirit of a real craftsman who values his work more than anything else, the author upholds the dignity attached with labour and the artistic aspect of every work, whatever it may be. The story “Quality” presents almost spiritual character of craftsmanship which is enough motivation for an artist like Mr. Gessler to carry on, disregarding all hardships on their way.