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Factory Lad


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A: John Walker Pf: 1832, London Pb: 1825 G: Melodrama in 2 acts S: The homes of a factory worker and a factory owner, outside a factory, an inn, a courtroom, and surrounding countryside, England, 1830s C: 11m, 3f, extrasIn the face of industrial competition, Squire Westwood feels obliged to introduce steam looms into his factory and to dismiss his loyal workers. Their appeals for mercy fall on deaf ears. They join forces with the poacher and outcast Will Rushton, whose wife died from starvation as a result of the Poor Laws, and together they take revenge on Westwood by setting fire to his factory and his home. The factory lad, George Allen, escapes arrest thanks to the daredevil bravery of Rushton, but eventually all end in court together. The corrupt Justice, named Bias, commits them to the local assizes, which will almost certainly sentence them to death. When Allen's wife's pleas to Westwood for mercy are spurned, Rushton produces a pistol and shoots him dead.

A: John Walker Pf: 1832, London Pb: 1825 G: Melodrama in 2 acts S: The homes of a factory worker and a factory owner, outside a factory, an inn, a courtroom, and surrounding countryside, England, 1830s C: 11m, 3f, extras

This is a remarkable melodrama, written by a writer about whom nothing but the name is known. In place of the usual theme of wicked landlord, threatened woman, and falsely accused hero, The Factory Lad deals with events of recent history, the Luddite uprising of 1811–16, and portrays a genuine political confrontation. While the dialogue is undeniably wooden and the plot dependent on moments of exciting action and overblown emotion, Walker brings his characters to life quite convincingly and allows even the villain Westwood reasonable justification for his unyielding attitude. This is the first play to deal with industrial conflict, a theme that was to re-emerge later in Hauptmann's The Weavers and Galsworthy's Strife.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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