“The Winslow Boy” by Terrence Rattigan Analysis

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There are several references to the ‘cost’ of the trial to the family, both financial and emotional. Which character in the play do you feel pays the greatest price for Ronnie’s innocence? You will need to look at each character in turn and consider the sacrifices she or he has made.

Based on a true story, The Winslow Boy, by Terrence Rattigan, is about a fourteen-year-old boy, Ronnie Winslow. Ronnie was expelled from Osborne Naval College, and his father, Arthur Winslow, has vowed to prove the boys innocence in court. Many things are lost to the Winslow Family, and it’s closest friends, due to the case. Sacrifices are made, by those who do not have the right to make these, and lives change.

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The Winslow Boy follows the case, the family, and shows how the life of individuals, and the family, is changed by the case. Terrence Rattigans highly acclaimed play does not only follow these things, but also gives an insight in to the changing social attitudes of a generation, and how these changes are seen from the generation before.

At the start of the play, and from the title, it would appear that Ronnie, The Winslow Boy, has lost the most. He has been expelled from Osborne and has had to move schools. The fact that he has been expelled from Osborne is important for two reasons. One was that he was wrongfully expelled, which is the point that the play revolves around. The other is that Osborne was the school that his father, Arthur Winslow, had wanted him to go to, even more so after Dickie, the families other son, had been rejected, and had to go to different a school. But as the case, and play, goes on, it is apparent that Ronnie has probably lost the least, compared to other family members at least. He has been accepted at Eton, so has a new school to go to, and the pressures of the case are less on him than others e.g. Arthur Winslow. Later on in the case, although about Ronnie, moves onto something bigger, and this is something Ronnie doesn’t care about, or cannot understand at his age. By the end of the play he has seemingly lost his interest in the case. This is shown well at the end of the play as Ronnie was at the Cinema as the result was announced:

Ronnie: I say Sir Robert, I ‘m most awfully sorry. I didn’t know anything was going to happen

Sir Robert: Where were you?

Ronnie: At the pictures.

Arthur Winslow is one of the characters that would be a contender for the family member who has paid the most. Arthur has paid not only in money terms, but with his well-being, as the play goes on his health deteriorates from a small case of arthritis, “Will you forgive me for not getting up? My arthritis has been troubling me rather a lot, lately.” to being confined to a wheelchair by the end of the play. This deterioration in his health is, in part, due to the pressures the case has brought on him. This loss of health may have been something that was going to happen sooner or later, but I think the pressures of the case brought it upon him much sooner than if there had been no case. Arthur has also paid in money terms, the case has drained all his money and he has started to take from the capital “You realize that if we go on, your marriage settlement must go?” This shows this because Catherine’s dowry was one sixth of Arthur’s total capital, and the case has either:

1) Totally used Catherine’s portion, and more, of the capital.

2) Put so much financial pressure on the families finances that guaranteeing the capital would be impossible, thanks to the probable continuation of the case.

This loss of funds effects all family members, apart from maybe Ronnie, although it would seem Arthur is effected much less by this cash problem, mainly it would seem, he is annoyed that he, an accountant, has lost a large proportion of his money, started to use his capital and lost his daughters dowry and has had to make his son Dickie leave school. This is shown when he says “I have made many sacrifices for this case, some of them I had no right to make, but I made them none the less.” this is saying that by continuing this case he has made decisions about his families well-being and future that he had no right to make, all for the continuation of this case. This might add to his loss of health by putting more stress on him.

Also, throughout the play, he has drifted from Grace, his wife, until the end when his loss of health makes him more dependent on others, therefore he becomes more dependent of Grace, and so his deterioration in health has good points and bad points. As does the case, although there are lots of bad points there is a good point, Arthur gets closer to Catherine.

In the play it would seem that Grace has lost fairly little. But as the play goes on you see things begin to change. Her way of life has begun to change. There are two examples of this “Oh Dear! It’s so difficult! I simply can’t be seen in the same old dress, day after day!” this shows money troubles and a change in how she dresses. If she is wearing the same thing day after day then they do not have the funds to continuously buy new clothes for Grace. This shows a change in Graces way of life, from her way of life before the case came along. Another example of something that may have happened if things worsened, and would have changed the families way of life, especially Grace as she is probably the head of the house staff, is the firing of Violet. This had been in consideration throughout the play as funds were gradually depleting. Although this did not actually happen, the thought of it was weighing heavily on Grace and Arthur’s minds and this could have also caused undue stress.

Catherine has lost several things due to this case, but she has also gained. The main thing throughout the play for Catherine, other than the case, is her fractioned relationship with John Watherstone. She loses her fianc�, John, due to the repercussions of the case. Johns father sends out an ultimatum to Arthur, warning him to drop the case otherwise John would not marry his daughter. Catherine decided the family would not drop the case and she didn’t get married to John. It is Catherine who decides, not Arthur, which shows the fact that Catherine has assumed responsibility for the case due, most likely, to Arthur’s deterioration in health.

Also, like Grace, but not as much, she loses a way of life due to the loss of money. She runs out of clothes and can’t afford to buy new ones. This is not as bad for Catherine as it is for Grace, due to Catherine’s more modern life and her less feminine lifestyle, but it is still there.

Dickie has had his life changed by the case, but this is less noticeable as he gradually drifts out of the play. He is taken out of Oxford because the family need more money for the case. His father, Arthur, then gets him a job as an accountant to secure Dickies future. This is a future that, it seemed, Dickie was not interested in. He moves out of home and has to change how he is accustomed to living. But this wasn’t as much a great cost to him, more so the next step in his life. He takes on more responsibility, and this is a good thing in a way. It gives him a more secure lifestyle and it is something he needed to get on the right track in life.

Sir Robert, although not immediate family, could be considered part of the family by the end of the play, as he has grown to be a very close family friend. Sir Robert loses one big thing due to this case, that is the position of Lord Chief Justice. That is the highest position in British law, and due to his commitment to the case he has to turn down the position.

Although he does turn down this position it is probably at not to great a cost. He already has a comfortable life. Almost everything that he needs, and turning down this role is mainly turning down the title and prestige that comes along with it, for he has no real need of most other benefits.

In conclusion, all members of The Winslow family, immediate family or not, have lost things.

In my opinion the family member who has lost the most is Arthur. He has lost money but more importantly, he has paid to clear his sons name with his own health. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest sacrifices someone can make for another individual. His loss of money is substantial, but the whole family is affected by this loss.

The other family member who has lost things on almost equal terms as Arthur is his daughter Catherine. She has lost her fianc�, John Watherstone, and there has lost a future. Although it can be said that there was not “true-love”, she has lost life security, and a life with someone who wants to be with her. But this cannot be compared to Arthur’s loss, for he has increased the chances of his death to make his sons future better.

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“The Winslow Boy” by Terrence Rattigan Analysis. (2017, Dec 11). Retrieved from


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