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Introduction to Major Barbara

Introduction to Major Barbara

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Published by AbdulRehman
This is a critical assignment on Major Barbara. Shaw is a great writer.This is also helpful for M.A. English papers.
This is a critical assignment on Major Barbara. Shaw is a great writer.This is also helpful for M.A. English papers.

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Published by: AbdulRehman on Sep 12, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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This play was written in 1905. Shaw underlined its theme in the preface as:“The crying need of the nation is not for better morals, cheaper bread, temperance, liberty,culture, redemption of fallen sinners and erring sisters, nor the grace, love and fellowshipof the Trinity, but simply for enough money. And the evil to be attacked is not sin,suffering greed, priest craft, kingcraft, demagogy, monopoly, ignorance, drink, war,pestilence, nor any other of the scapegoats which reformers sacrifice, but simply poverty.”As such, the play revolves round money and lack of money.Barbara, the heroine of the play, holds the rank of a Major in the Salvation Army. TheSalvation Army was founded in 1877 by William Booth for the revival of religion amongthe masses. The movement was organized on a military model. Its social services includedmaternity homes, children’s homes, industrial homes, prison gate homes, shelter and cheapfood depot for the homeless, labour bureaus, farms, industrial schools and slum posts. In1904, King Edward sent for General Booth to express his admiration for the work.In the beginning, Shaw found this movement as a welcome change. But later on hecondemned these activities, in the words of AC. Ward, “as mean bargaining with God”.Preaching a simple life with bare necessities in this world for promise of eternal bliss inheaven hereafter is hypocrisy. Shaw believes that virtue consist in well doing without desireor thought of reward or any personal advantage. So long as there is poverty and itsattendant miseries, there can be no more pure religion. Undershaft, the heroine’s father, isthe mouthpiece of Shaw’s secular morality. He who is a capitalist, a merchant of weapons,thinks that poverty breeds discontents that may be threat to capitalism. So he uses hisimmense power to eliminate poverty at least among his own workers. He shows hisdaughter that he can buy the Army’s good graces for the price of a donation. He convertshis daughter to his own creed. Directly involved in this struggle for Barbara’s soul is hersuitor, Adolphus Cusins, a professor of Greek. Shaw’s hope for the salvation of society liesin Undershaft’s power of money, Barbra’s moral fervour and Adolphus’s intellect.Synopsis of the Play:Act-ISir Andrew Undershaft and Lady Britomart are husband and wife who have beenseparated for a very long time. They have a son – Stephen and two daughters — Barbaraand Sarah. Barbara is engaged to Adolphus, and Sarah to Charles. Undershaft is a weaponmerchant and is not ashamed of his trade. He earns millions; both Lady Britomart andStephen do not like his trade. She invites her husband and asks him to provide for herchildren. Barbara tells him that she has saved the souls of thousands of criminals andinfidels. She asks him to visit the Salvation Shelter. She hopes that her father will beimpressed, become a convert and give up his trade. He agrees on the condition that she willvisit his works in Perivale St. Andrews in Canning Town. He accepts her challenge andretorts: “Are you sure it will not end in your giving up the Salvation Army for the sake of the Cannons.”Act-IIUndershaft visits the Salvation shelter and is unmoved. He believes his trade is moreeffective in soul-saving than the activities of the Salvation Army. After some days, there is afinancial crisis in the Army. Unless money is arranged immediately from some source, theactivities of the army will cease. A trade whisky offers 5000 pounds on the condition if pound, 1000 each is donated by five other gentlemen. Undershaft seizes the opportunity of helping the army and writes a cheque for 5000 pounds. Barbara shows repulsion to herfather’s money which she believes is tainted. She thinks that the Army should not have solditself like this. But a superior member of the Salvation Army overcomes her repulsion. ButBarbara is shocked and frustrated at this turn of the situation. She throws off her badgeand refuses to go with the Army. She refuses to pray with them and says that perhaps shewill never pray again

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