The Winslow Boy

The Winslow Boy – Theatre Essay
Recently, I have been studying a play written by Terence Rattigan, titled “The Winslow Boy”. It is based on a true story during the depression building up to World War 1. The main theme that I have noticed throughout the book is the principle and concept of the

phrase “Let right be done”. The second theme, which I find is almost equally as important, is that the ideology of a country, responsible for rights and justice, should never be looked past, even in times of war and International instability. Finally I am going to state and capture the philosophical differences between right and justice. Also discussing whether achieving justice also achieves right.

The play itself, documents the struggle of Ronnie Winslow’s father, Arthur Winslow, as he tries to achieve what is right for his son. Ronnie had been expelled from his Naval College, without trial, for the theft of a 5-shilling postal order.

There was no solid evidence that it was Ronnie that stole the postal order, but the Naval College took all of the circumstantial evidence into hand, considering the time periods of which Ronnie had the opportunity.

Arthur, throughout the psychological massacre, sacrifices his health, his money, his dignity, and his closest characteristic, his pride. He keeps the case running, and keeps Sir Robert Morton, the highest regarded attorney of law in Britain at the time, on the case while slowly deteriorating, physically, emotionally and mentally.

Many Interruptions during the case cause Arthur to have second thoughts, but he just keeps breaking through and going on with the case. Until Catherine’s marriage plans are threatened, by her groom’s father. And Arthur passes unto Catherine the power to halt the case. Catherine ends up giving the ongoing case the green light to go on even more. Until, in the end, the case is won. A rather ironic victory, resulting in huge material losses, but pride and dignity were regained.

There are several key incidents, included in the plot, that show that the main theme of the entire play is the coveted phrase “Let Right Be Done”. The first incident, in which the concept of “Let Right Be Done” is sewn into the story, is during the scene that Arthur Winslow has to break the news to his eldest son, that he can longer attend Oxford University. Arthur Felt that paying the fees and funding for Dickie, his eldest son, to continue going to university every year was a huge gamble, and the “odds” of Dickie getting a degree at the end of the year were exceedingly low. Arthur felt that, the chances of Dickie getting a degree, compared to the annual tuition fees made it clear that he was paying for a lost cause, but Arthur needed all the money he could get to keep the case running.

That scene, one of the first to truly express the principle, shows that Arthur will make many sacrifices and go through a lot of emotional pain to prevent ending the case. Arthur makes it clear that serious about Ronnie getting the essential rights and proving to the government that even during war, a time where everyone must make huge sacrifices, the law, still, may not overlook right. That is why it is a prime example, in which the concept of “Let Right Be Done” is included.

The Second scene that frames the concept of “Let Right Be Done” is when Arthur hears news that Catherine’s fiancé’s father refuses to support his son, John, is he continues on to marry Catherine. John’s father does not want him to marry Catherine, because her family are currently in the media, obviously in the lawsuit against the navy. John’s father does not like this because he is a former Navy General.

Arthur, After he finds out about John’s father, then caves to the pressure and since Catherine was clearly the favourite of Arthur he passes on the power to carry on, or end, the case to his daughter, Catherine, whom her marriage is threatened if the case goes on. Catherine then, patriotically, continues the case, through her marriage being in jeopardy, with the eternal line “Let Right Be Done”.

The final scene, in which, I find strips off and unveils the bare anatomy of “Let Right Be Done” is post-case. Arthur and Ronnie emerging with a, rather, down victory. Sir Robert Morton arrives at the Winslow house, begins talking to Catherine, and announces “I wept today because right had been done” and Catherine replies “Not Justice?” Then Sir Robert speaks one of the most eternal lines throughout the play, “No. Not justice. Right. It is not hard to do justice-very hard to do right. Unfortunately, while the appeal of justice is intellectual, the appeal of right appears, for some odd reason, to induce tears in court. That is my answer and my excuse. And now, may I leave the witness box?”

To understand the philosophical differences between “Right” and “Justice”, you must first understand the singular meanings for the words. Right is correct in judgment, opinion, or action. Right is also in conformity with fact. Yet justice is in conformity with the law, and what is politically right. Surely what is politically correct must succumb to what is morally correct in the world. Incontrovertibly the differences between right and justice are that justice, which is easily achieved, can be done by going through the law, which is continuously run in the country. But ‘Right’, which is much harder to obtain, has to be achieved through all of the correct morals and civil liberties. Right should be unalienable even if in collision with justice.

The story of “The Winslow Boy” is made truly interesting by the complex and in-depth personas of the characters. But the most outstanding and intriguing character throughout the story, in my opinion, is undoubtedly Sir Robert Morton, the lawyer that defends the Winslow family.

Sir Robert Morton is unpredictable, flamboyant and mysterious, to name only a few of his qualities. He is a psychological surgeon that cerebrally dissects all of his subjects that stand between him and justice, in this case justice and right. He is a young man, around the age of 35, and he is at the peak of his career.

Sir Robert Morton, I feel, takes on the Winslow case because he sees it as a challenge; he sees it as a chance to prove right, when formerly he could only do justice. He takes the case because he believes in Ronnie. Clearly, Sir Robert Morton could do justice and win almost every case that he is employed to, but he was acting as an unscrupulous, justice-achieving machine and had not yet believed in a case to such an extent that it induced his tears in the courtroom, let alone achieving right.

Into a more personal side of Sir Robert’s life, there is evidence to support the theory that Sir Robert could have possibly had sentimental feelings towards Catherine. Towards the end of the play, mid-case and post-case, Sir Robert’s way with words changes with low lucidity yet it can be significant if noticed. Sir Robert begins to put himself down while around Catherine. He begins to try and make Catherine feel higher. Evidence of this is when Sir Robert is talking to Catherine (Ref. p86) on the subject of Sir Robert’s stubbornness. Sir Robert says “Ah. That is perhaps the only quality I was born with-the ability to make myself a confounded nuisance.”

I think that, like Catherine, Sir Robert is rather insecure about his emotions. He is very kept to himself. He hides behind a seemingly cold-blooded, dispassionate guise, which I would assume would assist in his career as a lawyer, but would not put him any place of happiness. He is so used to the use of his ‘poker-face’ that it has become his ongoing personality.

Sir Robert also seems to think in such a way that career, justice and right must always come before such ‘evanescent’, ‘inconsequential’ emotions such as love. He feels that he must continue on as the loner he has always been on the inside. He supports others in achieving justice and happiness yet he has not gained support for himself.

A seemingly insignificant trait of his personality makes it seem unlikely that he will be able to settle down and form a family, something about his character gives me idea that his life will continue hollow. He is an incredibly strong character that would be able to live out his life without a partner. Yet life without love can barely be called life. His life will most likely go on with a sentimental vacancy, and will always be slightly emptier than he would hope.

Most of my above opinions derived from the scene right at the end of play where Sir Robert leaves the Winslow House, never to return. It was the opportune moment for either Catherine or Sir Robert to break the ice, for their obvious feelings towards each other, yet nothing happens. It is an anti-climax that truly made me think that the souls of Sir Robert and Catherine will continue on, in desolation and apathy. The scene almost sickened me that neither Catherine nor Sir Robert took action. Why would a beautifully growing flower refuse to bloom? Maybe afterwards they realised that they should have made their feelings known to each other, yet it was too late for their lonely hearts. And those hearts would continue on lonely.

When I first began reading the play, I found it rather boring. But as it went on and I realised the principles and morals of the story I began to grow attached to the story. I thought the relationship between Catherine and Sir Robert was the most interesting issue, I was very interested in which direction the ‘romance’ between the two was going to go. I enjoyed adding my strong opinions on the anti-climax of Sir Robert and Catherine’s feelings for each other. I also took pleasure in writing about the extensive use of the concept “Let Right Be Done”. I enjoyed finding the philosophical differenced and adding my own thoughts on the battle between ‘Right’ and ‘Justice’. All in all I enjoyed this book, because it failed to stay within the cover, the story sprung into real-life as I compared the sentimental and political issues to the world nowadays.