Major Barbara Title: Major Barbara Author: George Bernard Shaw Setting: The play extends over three days in January 1906. The beginning starts in the library of Lady Britomart, the estranged wife of Andrew Undershaft. It then continues with a visit to the West Ham Shelter of the Salvation Army. The play finally concludes at the Undershaft Empire, the munitions’ factory. Plot: Lady Britomart invites her estranged husband, Andrew Undershaft, over to reacquaint him with his children, Stephen, Sarah, and Barbara.
Lady Britomart is in need of more money to support their daughters and their intended’s, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins. Barbara tries to convert her father and save his soul. While Andrew will convert his daughter, Barbara to his side. Cast of Key Characters Major Barbara Undershaft Conformist [Barbara to Lady Britomart 65] Lady Britomart has just informed the girls, Sarah and Barbara, that their father, Andrew Undershaft, will be arriving at any time. She has already informed Stephen Undershaft. Since it has been a long time ago, when they were babies, that Andrew has seen the children she wishes for them to be on their best behavior. Lady Brit wants to ask Andrew for money for the girls and their intended’s, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins; therefore, she has asked them to be there also.
To accommodate her mother she attempts to conform to a ladylike appearance. Quote: All right, mother. We’ll do you credit. [She comes off the table, and sits in her chair with ladylike elegance]. Director [Barbara to Shirley 83] Bill Walker has just assaulted two women, Rummy and Jenny Hill, at the West Ham Shelter.
He is looking for his woman. Barbara comes out to take the names of the people who have arrived and to save their souls. She takes control of the situation in a professional way. She directs Shirley to sit down and for the gentlemen there to give her their names, addresses, and trades. Barbara is trying to put order back to the disorder that had just occurred.
Quote: Sit down: make yourself at home. [He hesitates; but she puts a friendly hand on his shoulder and makes him obey]. Now then! Since you’ve made friends with us, we want to know all about you. Names and addresses and trades. Conniver [Barbara to Bill Walker 84] Shirley has given Barbara his name and trade. She then turns to Bill to give his name. Bill refuses to give his name to her.
She then tries to coax it out of him, by making a note in her book and calling him chicken basically. Quote: [calmly making a note] Afraid to give his name. Any trade? Caregiver [Barbara to Jenny 87] Barbara has been talking with Bill about what he had done earlier to the women and trying to get him to see the light. Bill tells her he is looking for his woman, Mog. Barbara tells him where she is but it won’t do him any good to go to get here back she has found another man. She will more then likely convert him, because that is how she won her new bow.
She decides to let him think about this for awhile and turns her attentions to Jenny. With sincere concern she asks if Jenny is all right and comforts her with a gentle touch. Quote: Poor little Jenny! Are you tired? Does it hurt? Oppressor [Barbara to Bill 89] Barbara has been talking with her father about how he and Shirley are both Secularists. Andrew says his religion is that of a millionaire. She says she is wrong they don’t have anything in common then.
Barbara dismisses Shirley and turns to her father. He asks about Bill. She says they will convert him in time. She seems to read Bill’s mind when she says she is sure her would like to smash Mog’s head in. He is amazed that she knew what he was thinking. She tries to scare him by saying that his new companion is the devil. And when the devil comes round he depresses people like him.
Quote: The devil, Bill. When he gets round people they get miserable, just like you. Fanatic [Barbara to Bill 90] Barbara is hell bent on saving Bill’s soul she keeps talking to him about the terrible thing he has done, hitting a good soul like Jenny Hill. She has become relentless. Telling him to hold out against the conversion and that he hasn’t a heart. She is playing on his guilt to make him repent and be converted to the light.
She wants to know why he keeps thinking about the deed if he is not feeling guilty. Quote: A man with a heart wouldn’t have bashed poor little Jenny’s face, would he? Critic [Barbara to Andrew 99] Barbara has just come back with Snobby Price from the shelter. Snobby has told his story of wickedness and they have collected four and tenpence. Barbara wish Snobby had been just a bit more wicked to his mother then they might have received five shillings. Her father, Andrew Undershaft, is sitting listening to the tale and offers to give the difference to make up the five shillings. Barbara wants to know how he made the money. By selling guns of course.
She criticizes him for attempting to buy his soul into forgiveness. The salvation must be worked for. Quote: Put it in your pocket. You cant buy your salvation here for twopence: you must work it out. Loner [Barbara to herself 111] Good news had come from Mrs.
Baines that Bodger would donate 5000 pounds to the shelter if she could get five other to donate 1000 pounds each. Barbara is at first excited until she learns that this man makes his money from selling spirits. Her father then offers the other 5000 pounds. He begins to write the check. Barbara protests that these men should not be allowed to buy their salvation.
She becomes dishearten when the money is accepted and even Cusins agrees that it must be taken for the poor of the shelter. Because of this act she has lost the soul of Bill for he sees them buying their way out of sin. She feels dissolute and alone. Quote: Drunkenness and Murder! My God: why hast thou forsaken me? Andrew Undershaft Judge [Undershaft to Lomax 67] Andrew Undershaft has just been introduced to his children, that he has not seen since they were babies. He blunders who they are quite badly. He mistakes Sarah’s fianc, Charles Lomax, for his son.
He then mistakes Barbara’s fianc, Adolphus Cusins, for his son. Even after Cusins introduces everyone he calls Sarah by Barbara. Lomax makes the comment that it must take time to get used to being there again. Andrew says it is not that. He judges himself that as a father he is a stranger and as a semi-intruder he will seem an uncaring father.
Quote: My difficulty is that if I play the part of a father, I shall produce the effect of an intrusive stranger; and if I play the part of a discreet stranger, I may appear a callous father. Visionary [Undershaft to Cusins 94] Undershaft and Cusins are discussing the two things that Undershaft feels are necessary for salvation, money and gunpowder. Undershaft has no use for honor truth and justice in his religion for without money and gunpowder you cannot afford them. Undershaft tells Cusins that in order for him to live his life the way he proclaims and saves people he must have money and power. At the end of the play this is what converts both Cusins and Barbara to Andrew’s world. He is giving us insight to the furture for Cusins.
Quote: I think, my friend, that if you wish to know, as the long days go, that to live is happy, you must first acquire money enough for a decent life, and power enough to be your own master. Conniver [Undershaft to Cusins 96] Undershaft and Cusins have been discussing religion. Now Undershaft wishes to deal with the business at hand, getting Barbara for himself and Cusins. Cusins doesn’t want to do business he felt they were talking about religion. Undershaft tells him that religion is the business at hand for it is the way to achieve their goals of having Barbara to themselves. Cusins only joined the Salvation Army to be near Barbara. Undershaft has come to the shelter to find an inlet to Barbara.
He uses the need of money for the Salvation Army to get Barbara to leave. Quote: Religion is our business at present, because it is through religion alone that we can win Barbara. Traditionalist [Undershaft to Lady Britomart 118] Undershaft has arrived to take the family to his munition factory. When he comes in he and Lady Brit are alone. Lady Brit approaches the subject of the girls needing money to support their intended’s and themselves. He agrees without any difficulty.
She then approaches the subject of Stephen. Lady Brit wants Stephen to inherit the factory. Undershaft tells her that he cannot break the tradition. Every Undershaft has been a foundling and that has been the tradition for years. It is also the tradition that the wives argue with the Undershaft husbands about the disinheriting of the eldest son.
Quote: My dear Biddy: the Undershaft tradition disinherits him. It would be dishonest of me to leave the cannon foundry to my son. Oppressor [Undershaft to Lady Brit 120] Undershaft and Lady Brit are arguing over the fact that he will not make Stephen his successor. Undershaft tells her that if she wishes to keep the factory in the family then she must find a suitable man to marry Barbara that will fit the tradition. She sees now that Barbara is his pet. He attempts to put her in her rightful place as a woman and his wife by telling her she must submit to him.
Quote: Just as much as it is your duty to submit to your husband. Critic [Undershaft to Cusins 147] Undershaft has offered the foundling position to Cusins. Cu …