Review: Major Barbara

Major Barbara- GB Shaw
Major Barbara- G B Shaw

Major Barbara is a three act play by George Bernard Shaw, written and premiered in 1905 and first published in 1907.

The plot revolves around Major Barbara Undershaft, an officer of the Salvation Army and the dilemma she faces when her father Andrew Undershaft, a millionaire and an arms dealer donates a large amount to the Salvation Army. While Andrew Underhsaft is a millionaire, he has been estranged from his wife and children and Lady Britomart, his wife is struggling to get her children to come into money so that they can have a comfortable life. The story revolves around the differnt eccentricities of the characters, the crux lying in Barbara dealing with her disillusionment with the relation between money and charity.

Throughout the course of the three acts, one can see the churning of scruples that the characters go through. There is a faraway ideal enshrined in Barbara’s beliefs, while Undershaft shows strength and fortitude in achieveing the greater good through smaller steps. While Barbara thinks of the ends, Underhsaft tries to provide the means to that ends.

Shaw, one of the most successful playwrights and writers of his time, was a strong reformist socialist. This piece of work is possibly one which closely reflects his political ideologies and beliefs. Though he touches upon very serious subjects, the treatment keeps it from getting brooding and dark. The characterizations are sketched to flit between stereotypes and exceptions so that they seem more real than they can be, yet grounded.

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