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Posted March 14, 2014
A classic by one of the greats.
Major Barbara is a pleasure to read. The characters were interesting, the story fun, and the humor fabulous. I see where P.G. Wodehouse got his licks. Wodehouse was the student, Shaw the master. But the play isn't a mere jest. Shaw was attempting social reform. The points he makes about the criminal justice system are valid to this day, especially his indictment of prison as punishment. If only we could think of something better.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 13, 2007
Money and Morality, Salvation and Society: The Qualms of Major Barbara
To be perfectly candid, I originally chose this book in a panic because of its slight thickness, which I hoped would aid me in reading it in the limited time given to read and review it. This was a poor basis for making a decision on my part, but it only intensified my delight in the monumental and entertaining story that I found concisely portrayed in its relatively few pages, Through the power of dialect and sparse but descriptive stage directions, Shaw manages to eloquently contain multiple contradicting views on morality, spirituality, classes, wealth, and other grand ideals in the form of multiple intriguing characters. Major Barbara takes place in England in 1906, and not very much actually happens in the course of the book. This may frustrate readers bent on receiving exciting and definitive action. I myself can understand how a book can contain excellent imagery, deep symbolism, and profound thoughts on abstract concepts, but still short of absorbing without an engaging plot to serve as a medium for these great accomplishments. With a lack of extreme action, it seems strange that this play is not a heavy and boring philosophical chore to read. What seems even stranger is the idea that it was written as a play, and as all plays, it is to be most appreciated on the stage its true form is not as printed words, but as actual actions and conversations carried out by the closest things to living tangible characters: actors. This seems strange because one could conceive that a lack of much action driving the plot would be even more impenetrable and wearisome as a live (lack of) action play than in a book, which you can at least go back and read over if something escapes you. Although this would be a logical assumption, this was not the case. To me, the play was far from dull and was even engaging. The potential reason for this would lie not in the storyâ¿¿s action but in its characters. Shaw has masterfully created a group of strange and intriguing people out of his descriptions and highly personified dialogue. There is Lady Britomart, the high society matriarch who sticks strongly to her simple yet limited principles and dominates everyoneâ¿¿s affairs while getting shocked and offended at the very idea that she is doing so. There is Andrew Undershaft, an indifferent yet amiable war business tycoon who is proud of his materialism and realism to the point of unashamed immorality, even proclaiming that being a millionaire is his religion. There are their children: Stephen, Sarah, and Barbara, who differ from each other immensely. Stephen is a well-mannered, uptight young man struggling politely for independence from his unwittingly dominating mother, but suffers from a severe limitation in perceiving and thinking about things that is similar to his mother. Sarah is a pretty, slender young woman, but is a bored and nondescript personage created by high society. Major Barbara is a near saint, working for the Salvation Army and unshakable in her faith of God and determination to save peoplesâ¿¿ souls. However, she suffers from an idealism that, while different from her motherâ¿¿s, is of its same level of one-sidedness, and also inherits some of her motherâ¿¿s disliked meddling and domination. The sweethearts of Sarah and Barbara are also interesting in their contrast. Sarahâ¿¿s fiancÃ© is a man named Charles Lomax, a friendly dandy known for saying â¿¿chap,â¿ or â¿¿Oh, I say â¿ and occasionally offering simple ideas which are largely derided by Lady Britomart. Barbaraâ¿¿s love interest is a gentle, cordial, yet intellectually mischievous Greek scholar named Adolphus Cuisins, a sort of agnostic, s gentle cynic, and a casual philosopher. With the natural conflicts between these persons, a battle of the hearts, minds, and souls is imminent. There are other minor characters and scene settings that add to the book. The most important minor characters are those of the various poor people and workers at thWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2009
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