Analysis of “Apple Tree” (extract)
John Galsworthy is an English writer of XIX-XX centuries famous for The Forsyte Saga and he won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1932. It is important to know, that he started his literary career with long short stories, and The Apple Tree, which was published in 1917, is one of the most popular by Galsworthy.
This extract does not say anything in particular about the whole story, but we can see very vividly the beginning of certain kind of events.
Basically, it is an exposition of the story, where we find out two friends, Frank and Robert, who were on a tramp, met one girl, and asked her to admit them to stay for the night at hers.
In this short author shows us a great skill of describing characters, we can not only see, but also feel the characters, to understand them. Description of the landscape and the name of the story help us to know the character of Ashurst, what he is going to do.
As everybody knows, an apple is a symbol of lapse from virtue according to the biblical legends. In the fourth paragraph, Frank was impressed by the girl and her beauty, and the nature helped us to recognize what kind of person is Ashurst.
So, he is romantic, scatter-brained and certainly, he is a dreamer. We can say it for sure, because author gave very poetic description for his thoughts and feelings. In the beginning of the text we see direct description of his character: “Ashurst pale, idealistic, full of absence”, and also we can see what kind of man he is through indirect portrait, for example, this sentence pictures Ashurst’s nature very vividly: “Every bough was swinging in the wind, every spring bird calling, and a slanting sunlight dappled the grass. He thought of Theocritus, and the river Cherwell, of the moon, and the maiden with the dewy eyes; of so many things that he seemed to think of nothing; and he felt absurdly happy.” Apparently, he does not know that he is going to commit a sin, at least such romantic people are not clear about consequences of their actions. Through nature description, we can recognize internal narration about the main character, Ashurst, who absolutely is the heart of the plot.
It is very interesting that the beginning and the end of the extract are almost similar, because here and there we find out the description of Frank’s image. There is only one difference; it is about the way how Galsworthy tell us. In addition, it is important to say that in the end of the extract author masterly emphasizes the nature of the protagonist, which was already descripted in the beginning.
It is only an extract but still we can say where exposition and climax are. Exposition is, obviously, in the beginning of the text, complication is “In uttering those words, he was conscious of a girl coming down from the common just above them. She was outlined against the sky, carrying a basket, and you could see that sky through the crook of her arm. And Ashurst, who saw beauty without wondering how it could advantage him, thought: ‘How pretty!”. Also, it could be a climax, because he has just fallen in love and it is the problem. It is like a crescendo, as he describes the girl, our character is more and more in love with her. But we are not able to say where resolution is, because events are just beginning to start.
What about minor characters, minor characters always opposite and different from main, because, I think, the function of minor characters is to show us problem of main and they help us to recognize the growth of the main personage. Robert Garton is the companion, who is absolutely different, he is “primeval beast”, however Ashurst is “idealistic” and romantic as well. He is not able to see the beauty of nature and girl, he has no any problems with how to start to speak to girl, however our protagonist hesitates. So, Ashurst is outlined against Garton. Basically, our characters are round and dynamic.
The narration of the text is logic and coherent, actions of personages are motivated and consistent. They are credible, but hardly interesting. How it is written is interesting, but the main character in my opinion is typical, therefore, apparently, not interesting, because his actions are obvious. In this extract, at least.
The author masterly used description, narration and exposition. The style of the text is bookish, there no any shortenings and it is very poetic. Even in
the dialogues we do not see any displays of colloquial style. There are a lot of nature description, its state, and I would like to think it is a key of the whole text, which also reveal the true image of character. If the story is about lapse from virtue, here it is the key sentence, which shows the beginning of it: “The pool, formed by the damming of a rock, had a sandy bottom; and the big apple tree, lowest in the orchard, grew so close that its boughs almost overhung the water; it was in leaf, and all but in flower-its crimson buds just bursting.” Sandy bottom symbolize the fallen, “almost overhung the water” symbolize that Frank is close to the fallen.
As I can see the text is lack of stylistic devices, but there are a lot of epithets, comparisons and metaphors, because the text is full of poetic description. Here are epithets, which characterize Ashurst and Garton: pale, idealistic, full of absence for Frank; queer, round-the-corner, knotted for Robert. Here are epithets, which describe appearance of the girl and her aunt: dark hair, long and dark lashes, straight nose, straight and dark brows, grey eyes for Megan; a quick, dark eye, snaky neck for aunt. They have only appearance description, because they are strangers for Robert and Frank. Here are direct comparisons: thin as rails, like some primeval beast, like a mother wild-duck. The big metaphor for Ashurst is the symbolic description of the apple tree: “The pool, formed by the damming of a rock, had a sandy bottom; and the big apple tree, lowest in the orchard, grew so close that its boughs almost overhung the water; it was in leaf, and all but in flower-its crimson buds just bursting.” So, these stylistic devices emphasize characters and reveal their nature.
Unfortunately, we cannot define the main idea of the story, because it is only an extract, but the title can reveal the idea of the text, as we say above it is about failure, about sin.
I entirely admire by Galsworthy’s manner of describing and narration. He always raise problems, which are very close and familiar to everyone, and he makes it very lightly, so that you can both enjoy and think. Not every work can made people think. The Apple Tree is interesting first of all for revealing characters, their psychology, but plot, in my subjective opinion is not interesting.
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