Quality – John Galsworthy


Two old brothers, Gessler younger and Gessler older, are shoemakers for a very long time. Their shoes are extremely durable because the brothers were never ready to compromise with quality. Slowly they faced stiff competition from big shoe makers and from the imported shoes. This story tells the lives of traditional workers who had fought a losing war against the industrial revolution in the 20th Century.

  • ‘Gessler Brothers’ was a roadside shoe shop in the West End, London. It was a shop run by two brothers (the younger of whom is the main character of this story).
  • The narrator had to meet the Gessler brothers since his childhood because his father used to send him to get his shoes made by them.
  • It was two shops combined, with a board, ‘Gessler Brothers’ outside the window and a few pairs of exotic leather shoes at the window.
  • Gessler was very different from the ordinary shoe-makers. He never made a shoe with inferior leather nor did he keep a shoe that was not made by him or his brother.
  • Besides, the Gessler brothers made shoes on order. Their quality equalled none of its time. The brothers, especially the younger Gessler, never compromised with quality. Each pair fitted perfectly. Slim and elegant, their shape made water come into one’s mouth.
  • He had certain tall brown riding boots with marvellous sooty glow, as if, though new, they had been worn a hundred years.
  • Over the years, the narrator developed a kind of suspicion upon the authenticity of the shoes made by the Gessler brothers. Did they really make them?
  • It seemed that Gessler was himself made of leather. His face was yellow crinkly, hair too crinkly reddish, neat folds slanting down his cheeks to the corners of his mouth. His voice was guttural and monotonous.
  • Like leather, he too was a sarcastic substance, stiff and slow of purpose. His eyes were grey-blue.
  • Shopping at Gessler brothers was different. One cannot expect to be served at Gessler’s shop. It was more like a place of worship – a place where the shopkeeper worshipped the shoes he made.
  • People very seldom visited the shop because Gesslers’ shoes lasted more than others did.
  • When a customer visits Gessler’s shop, the first thing to be done is to wake him up from his leather dreams.
  • If his elder brother is there, the customer would be a little luckier because he was not as slow as his young brother.
  • Once he received an order for a shoe, Gessler would be lost in the making of it. He would ask the customer to come back the next day or so and would disappear into his room upstairs.
  • If Gessler had to make a new model of shoe, he would observe the model for long and take precise measurement by drawing and redrawing. He would not fail to scold the customer for having ruined a wonderful shoe due to carelessness.
  • Once the narrator made a complaint about a shoe that Gessler had made for him some time ago. He said that the shoe had creaked. It was more that what Gessler could take. He argued that the narrator should have been careless with the shoes, got them wet in the water, etc. He also suggested bringing those shoes back to him.
  • Pause here for a while and think of Gessler. Why is Gessler different from other businessmen? He was even ready to pay the money back. Probably it was out of sympathy for those shoes, not to restore his goodwill in the industry, that he agreed to look at the shoes.
  • Once the narrator went into Gessler Brothers to place an order. That day he wore a pair of shoes bought from a large firm. Not only that Gessler disliked the shoe, he also brought to the narrator’s notice that it was not a shoe made by him.
  • In this, he was not blaming the narrator for buying a shoe from a big store but he was expressing his contempt at the big firms that attracted customers with their mouthwaering advertisements to sell their inferior quality products.
  • From this the narrator understood that Gessler himself was a victim of big firms and their advertisements. How long will this old man fight with big firms without changing his beliefs? He could also produce shoes with inferior leather but he would not. He was genuine as his brother was.
  • That day the narrator ordered for a few pairs of shoes and they lasted all time longer!
  • It was after very long that the narrator paid a visit to the Gessler Brothers next time. By this time the elder Gessler had died and a new shop had come in one of the two rooms that was earlier part of the Gessler Brothers. Evidently things were not at ease!
  • There were other changes too – the show-pieces were huddled in a corner of the showcase and the interior of the shop was darker.
  • Coming out, Gessler said that he had to give up one of the two rooms due to rent hike and bad business. He explained that competition had a stronger hold on him.
  • Again the narrator visited Gessler Brothers, almost after five years. This time Gessler had grown terribly old and his business had been all time slacker.
  • Having praised his boots as usual, the narrator spent time with his shoe-maker friend and returned after ordering for a number of pairs.
  • Gessler had been too old that time so the narrator hadn’t truly believe that the shoes would be delivered but they arrived. Four pairs of shoes, the best ever at the same rate. The narrator sent him a cheque that he himself signed.
  • When the narrator visited Gessler Brothers the next time, Gessler’s shop was no more there. Nor was Mr. Gessler. The old man had died of slow starvation.
  • There had come in the place of Gessler Brothers a new shop that made shoes for a Royal Family.
  • The young man at the shop informed the narrator of Gessler’s slow, starved death. The old man could not make his boots in time so his customers grew tired of him.
Questions & Answers
  1. Who were Gessler Brothers?
    Mr. Gessler, an old man who worked as a boot maker, had a very rare character. He lived with his elder brother who looked like him, but his elder brother was paler than him. They lived in two rent tenements but let into one in the West End, the part of central London where there are many theatres and many large expensive shops and hotels.
  2. How was Gessler Brother’s shoe shop peculiar?
    Among the expensive shops, their shop was the simpler one. They did not give any sign upon its surface, there was just a board, and their German names were written on it, “Gessler Brothers”. Mr. Gessler only made what was ordered by the customers.
  3. How did John Galsworthy come in touch with the Gessler Brothers?
    The writer, John Galsworthy, knew the Gessler Brothers since he was very young, because his father used to order boots from them. John usually ordered his boots for him too. And he always thought that the boots were strange but extremely good, so that’s why he admired the maker.
  4. “It is an art!” When and about what did Gessler younger say so?
    One day, when the narrator was in Mr.Gessler’s shop, he asked shyly to him whether it was greatly hard to make boots or not. He asked it because he was too curious. Then Mr.Gessler showed little respect in a humorous but unkind way and answered, “Id is an Ardt!”. He was a Germans, that’s why his English had a German accent.
  5. What were Mr.Gessler’s priorities in making boots?
    Mr. Gessler was very disciplined. He was quick but spent enormour time to make his boots. He made the boots with the authentic materials, giving maximum priority to the quality of the boots he made. He did not care about the price of materials. If the customers felt satisfied with the shoes that he made, he would be satisfied too.




What do you think?

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