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Andrew Undershaft as a Mouthpiece of Bernard Shaw in

Major Barbara
Andrew Undershaft is the mouthpiece of George Bernard Shaw. He stands for realism, however
unpleasing and unpalatable. He is the very embodiment of realism in the play. He has risen from the
hell of poverty to the paradise of affluence. He sells canons, and earns money. He espouses
radically different views.

As he is at present extremely rich, so is he extremely intelligent, imaginative, outspoken


and eloquent.

So far as money is supposed to be a harbinger of pride, dignity and self-respect,


Andrew Undershaft is an ardent worshipper of money. Unlike the most wealthy people,
he is realistic about who and what he is, and honest about his intentions. He frankly
says that for him poverty, is the world's greatest crime. If somebody asks a question
what is the religion of Andrew Undershaft? The correct answer is wealth. Wealth is the
ultimate religion to Andrew Undershaft. He professes the religion of economics to the
religions as such.

Throughout the play, Shaw uses Undershaft as a vehicle to convey his view and
criticize conventional beliefs about charitable organizations and political. In his
persuasive and imaginative arguments, he comments upon, criticizes and ridicules the
hypocrisy of the moralists, the intelligentsia and the politicians of British society, who
glorify poverty and preach a set of lofty values, which they themselves never practice.
Undershaft is honest and rational enough to admit that he would rather be a thief than
live in poverty. His power of reasoning, unmatched wit, and genuine concern for his
employees and their living and working conditions influence and change the other
characters to a more realistic and rational view of life.

His views are opposed to his daughter, Barbara, who takes poverty as a virtue. She
preaches religious gospel to the hungry stomachs. According to her, if people are taught
to be satisfied, then they can earn virtue through religion and grasp the gospel of God
more effectively. But, for Andrew Undershaft, poverty is a sin and a great crime. In a
hungry and empty stomach, no one can be religious. The poor might come to hear the
gospel, but they never comprehend the true meaning of the religion until they are fully
satisfied. Only contented belly can better understand the religion and its true meaning.
So, he wants his daughter Barbara to be realist first, then only the idealist. As Shaw is a
vehement critic of idealism, he pinpoints his ideas of realism through Mr. Undershaft.
Major Barbara Study Center
Major Barbara as a Play of Discussion of Ideas

Barbara as Defeated Idealism in Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara