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Major Barbara as a Play of Discussion of

Ideas
Major Barbara is a play of discussion of ideas. It aims at promoting the idea that our thoughts must
be helpful in understanding the basic nature of truth. As a play of idea Major Barbara instruct us to
change our abstract idealism with the touch and twist of realism. According to Bernard Shaw life
reveals its beauty and grandeur only when we cast aside idealism and embrace the reality that
stands face to face before us.
According to Bernard Shaw idealism twins us away from reality. Idealism carries us away from
actualities and eventualities. To fall in love with idealism is to put life in the hell of ignorance and
ugliness. So far people have been thinking that idealism helps us to identify the essential beauty of
life. Idealism has, hitherto, been taken as the alchemy of enlightenment. Idealism has ruled over the
panorama of life for a long time. To enlighten people it was supposed to be a major fool.

But Bernard Shaw is critical of this idealistic line of thinking. According to him, the idealistic trend in
thinking prevents us from knowing the actual nature of reality. To comprehend the actual nature of
the problem, it is necessary to stop flying in the empty sky of empty idealism. It is necessary to stand
on the ground of reality to understand the objective nature of social problems.

According to Shaw idealism makes us ignorant whereas as realism enlightens us. Then Shaw
propounds the option to choose spiritual idealism or to choose realism. To choose realism is to
enlighten ourselves so that we can better grasp the actual nature of the problem. In the play Major
Barbara, Barbara, the protagonist of the play, upheld the view that the poor can be helped and
changed through the pious Christian virtues like patience, sincerity, sense of sacrifice and
humbleness. She maintains that poverty is the result of spiritual ignorance. Hence, by acquiring
spiritual knowledge a poor man/woman can uplift himself/herself. Barbara undertook, in the salvation
center, the tough job to save the soul of the poor by the agency of the Christian ideals. It seems she
embarked on the risky adventure of teaching the empty belly about the value of salvation. She did
not care whether the hungry stomach truly appreciated her spiritually moving preaching or not. She
was proudly convinced that the empty belly can better grasp the complicated spiritual matter. This
pattern of conservative Christian idealism symbolized by Barbara is severely attacked by Bernard
Shaw. Barbara detests evils. Andrew loves evils because, according to him, it is an evil which can
teach us something about the good. Andrew is of the opinion that the evils must not be detested,
rather it should be mastered.

Barbara is afraid of crimes like murder, rape, theft, etc., but Andrew undershaft takes all those so-
called crimes as simple disturbances in the established order of the established society. To Andrew,
poverty is the greatest crime, it is the greatest evil. The primary duty of any conscious citizen is,
according to Andrew undershaft, to slay the monster of poverty. It impairs the whole world.

Barbara wants to solve the problem of poverty by creating spiritual knowledge, and by spreading the
light of Christian idealism. Andrew wants to solve the problem of poverty by giving the employment
and job to the jobless.

In this play of idea George Bernard Shaw wants to establish the fact that poverty is the greatest
crime, that it can be solved by earning money. Spiritual idealism can't be a practically productive
response to the crime of poverty. Money is the ultimate response to the question of poverty. Andrew
is the sort of man who can say yes to any violence and bloodshed if such violent acts bring sufficient
money to murder the monster of poverty. In the fever pitch of his argument Andrew justifies his
industry for enabling him to kill the giant of abject poverty which once nearly swallowed him. Thus,
this play promotes the idea that the religion of Money, Moloch and Materialism is far more useful and
superior to the religion of

THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS

Major Theme

The main theme of Major Barbara is centered on conflicting social and moral ethics,
one realistic and the other idealistic. On the one hand, there is Mr. Undershaft, who
looks at life realistically and believes that poverty is a crime. He accepts that man
must have money to take care of his basic human needs, and until those needs are met,
man cannot have any intellectual or spiritual pursuits. In contrast are the moralists and
idealists, like Major Barbara, who seem to glorify poverty and suffering. They feel
that if the poor are treated kindly and given charity, they can turn them into good
people, saving their souls. Undershaft believes that such views are hypocritical, for he
has lived a life of poverty and knows its pain. As a result, he makes certain that the
workers in his factory are given a good life and rise above poverty. He knows that a
hungry man cannot think of lofty ideas or worry about his soul. At the beginning of
the play, Major Barbara feels that she can save the souls of the hungry and needy who
come to the Salvation Army; she idealistically accepts all of their teachings and tenets.
During the course of the play, her father, Andrew Undershaft, makes her realize that
her idealism must be tempered with reality.

Undershaft is also a stark contrast to Peter Shirley, who would rather starve than
accept charity or earn money through dishonest means. In contrast, Andrew
Undershaft genuinely believes that it is okay to make a fortune from making and
selling guns and cannons, as long as the common worker is respected. He also
believes it is better to be a thief than die as a pauper. In the final act of the play,
Undershaft states the importance of courage and conviction to any cause; it takes
honest, committed, and courageous people to make positive change in the world.

Minor Themes

Major Barbara openly criticizes the Salvation Army; by inference, Shaw is also
criticizing other twentieth century religious and charitable organizations. He believes
that such groups turn the attention away from the real problems faced by the common
people. Instead of making them into productive workers who can earn a living and
gain self-respect, these organizations are more interested in saving their souls. By
preaching forgiveness above everything, these organizations help to prevent any kind
of organized struggle by the workers for their basic rights. As a result, the rich
industrialists are very interested in helping to fund organizations such as the Salvation
Army, for they reap profit from their existence. Although the Salvation Army has
many sincere and committed members who want to alleviate the misery of the poor,
like Major Barbara, Shaw believes that ultimately it benefits the rich.

Another theme developed in the play is the sad truth about politics. Shaw shatters the
middle class myths that the voting public really influences the government or that the
learned ministers in the Parliament make decisions for the country. In the play,
Undershaft speaks the truth when he says that it is people like him (wealthy
industrialists) that influence the government to make crucial decisions for the nation.
He further states that when people vote, they change the names of the people in the
Cabinet, but they do not change the government. Undershaft believes that only guns
and cannons have the power to change governments by totally destroying the old
order and setting up a new one

He tells Barbara that moralizing and preaching to half-starved people will never
change the world. To truly change society for the better, honest, committed people,
like Barbara herself, will have to wield weapons and defeat the corrupt and unjust
people occupying the seats of power.

Theme of Major Barbara is the education of Barbara--


broken illusions of Barbara
Bernard Shaw was a professed iconoclast. In all his plays he undertakes in principle to shatter
convention illusions or romantic myths that have accrued through time upon some social or
moral concepts. For example, in Arms and the Man Shaw exposes the hollowness of the
romantic concepts about love and war, in Mrs. Warren’s Profession he blows up the myths
round prostitution and The Widower’s Houses the concepts of sham landlord-ism and so on.
Similarly, in Major Barbara Shaw debunks the hollowness of institutionalized Christianity. The
purpose is served by the shattering of illusions and the consequent education of Barbara. Her
education is primarily structured through a series of conversations on morality, religion, and
social engineering and it becomes a promise of society's redemption.

 Barbara is a charged idealist, a Major in the Salvation Army. She is a missionary solely imbued
with idealistic notion of Christianity. The granddaughter of an Earl and the daughter of a
millionaire, she has sacrificed all comforts and luxuries in life, dispensed with her personal maid
and lives on a pound a week. When she is faced with the prospect of meeting her father for the
first time since her early childhood, she is not emotionally excited, but considers her father as a
potential client of the Army whose soul can be saved. She is deeply convinced about the set
notions of Christian morality, that money is in itself bad, and that money earned through evil
means is worse, that drunkenness is sin, that murder and violence are horrible crimes against
humanity. Thus she considers her father Andrew Undershaft, who earns fabulously through the
sale of ammunition potentially evil, a person whose soul requires salvation from sin and evil. 

            The direct contact with Undershaft brings Barbara face to face with horrible reality.
Undershaft breaks her illusion when he shows her hat the Salvation Army is solely dependent
on the money of the capitalists like Badger and Undershaft who deal with drunkenness and
destruction. At the end of the ‘shelter scene’ when Barbara realizes the utter dependent of the
Salvation Army on large capital, she is completely disappointed. She discovers as well that as
an individual one is utterly dependent on corrupt social organizations. Money is the boa
constrictor from whose embrace even a riotous person has no escape. Barbara, at the end of
Act II, has her illusions shattered only to realize that even Salvation is in one way utterly
dependent on so-called devil Dom. She finds out to her dismay that the temple of God has to be
built by mammon that the seven Deadly sins, have to be conquered by money. As a Christian
missionary she has so long preached against riches, and now it is obvious that her entire faith is
crumbling down. Hence her cry of desperation, “My God, why hast thou for saken me?”

courtesy
   
  In Act III it is Undershaft who points out once again that even as an individual Barbara had so
long been dependent upon money:
     “I fed you and clothed you and housed you …………… that saved your soul from the seven
deadly sins………… I lifted them from your spirit. I enabled Barbara to become Major Barbara;
and I saved her from the crime of poverty.” And Barbara, too, acknowledged at she could not
fight the reality of Undershaft with her romantic myth about religion. And that is why Barbara
confesses her shock:
“I stood on the rock I thought eternal and without a word of warning it reeled and crumbled
under me.”

  Barbara’s illusions about religious practices like confession and conversion are also shattered
when she learns at the end of Act II that Snobby Price, in spite of his conversion, did not change
intrinsically, since he stooped to steal the crown of Bill Walker at the time of his departure from
the shelter. We also learned that the Army’s so called insistence on confession is a hollow sham
when we find that Snobby Price or Rummy Mitchens actually pretended to be sinful while they
were  really so and that Snobby was inventing this confession only to arouse sensational
responses from the audience.

            With the shattering of illusion Barbara, however, does not throw her flag down. She is
not finally converted to her father’s religion of money and gunpowder. Though her illusion about
the Salvation Army in particular and institutionalized religion in general is destroyed, she does
not lose faith upon the necessity of Salvation. Only she has matured enough to realize that
turning our back on Bodger and Undershaft is turning backs on life. She, with her renewed
understanding, now acknowledges that money is a necessary evil and yet it is a part of the
reality of life. And, therefore, she decides to take up the challenge to work for the salvation of
the human souls to be saved; not weak souls in starved bodies …………. But fullfed,
quarrelsome, snobbish, apish creatures ……… that is where salvation is really wanted.”
Barbara now understands that an individual can not have religion as long as he is poor; only
where the bodies are full, the souls are hungry. That is why Barbara says that she has “got rid of
the bride of Bread ……… of the bride of heaven”. Barbara’s final statement shows her heroic
will, and her deep devotion to salvation is only strengthened with her illusions shorn off. Her final
mission will be “The raising of hell to heaven and of man to God, through the unveiling of an
eternal light in the valley of the shadow………… Major Barbara will die with the colors”.

 
 

Major Barbara: Theme Analysis


Capitalism
As the trader in arms, Undershaft epitomizes and embodies the influence of capitalism
in Western society. Curiously for a play which questions this economic system,
Undershaft is the most honest of the characters as he regales others in his views that
poverty is the worse crime. This may be seen as a weakness in the play, as he makes
millions off the backs of others (as Shirley points out), but it also may be regarded as
deeply ironic.
Capitalism is undoubtedly criticised, and yet it is also viewed as ultimately unavoidable.
This becomes apparent when Barbara agrees with Cusins’ decision to take on the role
of the latest Andrew Undershaft foundling. Through these two characters, it is posited
that it is impossible to turn away from capitalism (as represented by Bodger, Undershaft
and other millionaires). Instead, we are told that the only practical way to challenge it is
from a position that accepts it as inevitable.
Christianity
Major Barbara and her idealistic evangelism is one of the play’s strongest themes.
Although it stops short of ridiculing her idealism, Christianity, and the Salvation Army in
particular, is criticized for its dependence on hypocritical thinking. This is most evident at
the beginning of Act II when Price and Rummy discuss their false confessions and how
necessary they are for their upkeep and for that of the Salvation Army.
There is also a parallel made between Christianity and capitalism when it is pointed out
by Undershaft that both require obedience. The good Christian, he argues, makes an
excellent employee. He or she would be sober, hard working and accepting of authority
(rather than prepared to instigate a revolution).
Class Distinctions
Class distinctions and snobbery run throughout the play and are ridiculed with the use
of satire. Lady Britomart, for example, is depicted as a hypocritical unthinking snob. Her
son, Stephen, also believes himself to be deserving of the well-placed position he has at
the top of the class hierarchy. It takes his father (who is a working-class foundling) to
point out his weaknesses and lack of ability.
It is only by virtue of his position of gentleman that Stephen claims to be best placed to
work in politics. Intelligence, knowledge and insight are seen to be lacking, but this is of
no concern to him as he has the character of an English gentleman. Although he is a
target for ridicule, such beliefs in birthrights have been and still are sufficient
requirements for so-called gentleman to be given the power they desire. The class
distinctions in English society are questioned and pilloried, therefore, through the
depiction of Stephen and his mother.

Major Barbara | Themes


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Forms of Power
Taking different forms, power is a theme that permeates Major Barbara. The play opens with a comic display
of Lady Britomart's power over her son. She controls when and where he sits, how he speaks, and what he
knows. Although mothers always have some degree of power over their children, this scene is comic because
Stephen is an adult, still under his mother's thumb. It is also funny because Lady Britomart demands he act like
a man and advise her, as long as he gives the advice she wants.
Barbara was under her own power before she found the Salvation Army, after which she was "in the power of
God." Even when she is forced to rethink her ideas of good and evil in Act 3, she wants to exercise power to
bring about salvation of the needy. She seeks "to make power for the world ... but it must be spiritual power."
The audience is left to question the effect of this kind of power, as Shaw leaves the question unresolved. It
remains to be seen whether Barbara's leadership will bring about change through her attempt to use her power
to create "the raising of ... man to God."
Cusins represents the power of intellect. Highly educated and a self-professed "collector of religions," Cusins
believes the power of intelligence can be used for right or wrong. His beliefs suggest Undershaftuses his power
in a Machiavellian way, promoting evil to achieve his own ends. Cusins says power always has the capability
to be used for good or evil, and he wishes to create power that will force "the intellectual oligarchy" to use
their brains to help everyone.
There is also the power of brute force, personified in Bill Walker. He physically controls Jenny Hill by
grabbing her by the hair, pushing her, and hitting her in the face. He uses his power to intimidate and control.
The only power Bill seems to fear is that which comes from social position. When he learns Barbara is the
granddaughter of an earl, he is suddenly meek. Interestingly, Bill's physical power has no effect on Barbara,
indicating it is weaker than spirituality.

Undershaft exercises the power of money, which is arguably, the strongest of all. Lady Britomart criticizes the
power of wealth that makes its owners above the law. She claims Undershaft can act immorally because his
money means he has European governments under his thumb. Undershaft doesn't deny this statement. He
boasts that because of the wealth of his business and its influence, he is, in effect, the government. More
altruistically, on the other hand, Undershaft uses the power of his money to save his workers by removing the
"millstones" of poverty from around their necks.

Good and Evil


Shaw uses various characters to represent different beliefs about good and evil. In the process he questions
whether the two are necessarily opposites, suggesting they may exchange places or even become part of each
other. Several characters are of the opinion that good and evil are absolutes. Lady
Britomart tells Undershaft he can talk all he wants, but he "can't change wrong into right." Stephen has learned
from his mother and agrees "right is right, and wrong is wrong; and if a man cannot distinguish them properly
he is either a fool or a rascal." On the other hand, Undershaft argues good and evil are relative. He claims
"every man has not the same morality." Cusins seems to understand Undershaft's statement, adding what is
good for one man is poison to another, morally speaking. In this idea Shaw was influenced by William Blake's
belief that "one law for the Lion and Ox is oppression." Blake's analogy illustrates the idea that good and evil
are relative. The lion's nature, which is to hunt and kill, is quite different from the ox's nature, which is not
predatory and is docile after it is domesticated. Having "one law," or rather the same moral expectation—in
keeping with the analogy—for both animals does not make sense. The animals, if made to follow the same
law, would no longer be true to their natures, and, hence, to expect them to conform would be oppression. In
Undershaft's view, "the greatest of our evils ... is poverty." Anything done to end poverty, in his opinion, then
becomes necessary and good, even if others view it as wrong. Charles Lomax comically echoes the position by
asserting "there is a certain amount of tosh about this notion of wickedness."
Although Barbara begins the play as a Salvationist with traditional Christian ideas of right and wrong, she
comes to believe that good and evil are both part of life, which is "all one." Since she cannot avoid evil, she
must find a way of integrating the two by "the raising of hell to heaven, of man to God." Good and evil are
often embodied as heaven and hell. Barbara imagines her father's factory to be a lot like hell, full of smoke and
fire with pitiful individuals tormented by her father, whom Cusins calls Mephistopheles, a devil who tricks a
man into selling his soul. To her surprise, the factory town he built is spotlessly clean, as he promised. It is like
"a heavenly city," full of peaceful people who willingly obey their master. In the play Shaw complicates ideas
of good and evil, inverting and eventually integrating the two.

Salvation of Souls
Barbara and the Salvation Army offer spiritual salvation of souls through God's forgiveness and promising
eternal life. In the characters of Snobby Price and Rummy Mitchens, Shaw shows how easily such salvation
can be counterfeited. They exaggerate their sins and at public meetings claim to be redeemed, while privately
they gloat to each other about their successful deceptions. Yet, for a time, such salvation has Barbara's
confidence. She tells Bill he can enjoy "eternal glory in heaven" if he will give over his soul. When he offers a
small amount of money to make up for his violent behavior, Barbara refuses it and claims spiritual salvation
cannot be bought. However, after the Army accepts large amounts of money from Bodger and Undershaft, Bill
gloatingly asks what the price of salvation is now.
Undershaft believes what people need is salvation from poverty by "money and gunpowder." He wants to
convert Barbara to his way of thinking, claiming he has saved her soul by providing for her needs in life and
that the poor need the same. He believes she will eventually "make [his] converts and preach [his] gospel."

Shaw asserts "there is no salvation ... through personal righteousness, but only through the redemption of the
whole nation." It is poverty from which the nation must be saved. By this measure, even Undershaft falls short
of achieving true salvation outside of his small town. By this measure "even the Salvationists themselves are
not saved." He, however, offers his workers salvation from "the crime of poverty."

Idealism versus Realism


Shaw is interested in "the conflict between real life and romantic imagination." As a playwright, Shaw makes
his audience comfortable, using the familiar setting of a drawing-room comedy only to upset their expectations
by showing the idealism of the characters to be an illusion. Although Lady Britomart and Stephen have
idealistic views about what is moral and immoral and don't want to be involved in the actual making of money,
they must acknowledge the reality that their livelihoods depend upon the munitions business, however
distasteful they find it. Barbara, too, moves from an idealistic view of salvation and sin when faced with the
fact the Salvation Army is in the pay of the very businesses that, in her opinion, cause so much human
suffering. Shaw, too, attacks the idealism of the Salvation Army with a humorous portrayal of its patrons. Price
and Rummy are dishonest characters who easily play the idealistic Salvation Army workers to get free
assistance.
Undershaft, Shaw's mouthpiece, unapologetically embraces pragmatism. He is a realist with no patience for
those who "make a virtue" of poverty. Realistically, it is better to be rich and dishonest than poor and honest
like Peter Shirley. As critic J.L. Wisenthal explains, Shaw believes "one must act, not from any absolute moral
principle, but according to the practical demands of a particular set of circumstances." Interestingly,
Undershaft creates an ideal community. Shaw paints a picture of Undershaft's town as a place in which
workers peacefully govern themselves, and everyone has everything they need. Cynical readers will question
whether Shaw is as unaware of his own idealism as the audiences he seeks to confront.

Physical and Spiritual War


The theme of war is an undercurrent in the play. While there is no overt violence, the idea of war is implicit in
the name and organization of the Salvation Army and the Undershaft weapons business. The Salvation Army
fights a spiritual war on sin, seeking to save souls. It is organized and run like a military
organization. Barbara's title is a military rank, a major, in God's army. Undershaft's business, he readily admits,
fuels wars around the world and will continue to do so. Contradicting Lomax, who thinks deadlier weapons
will deter war, Undershaft asserts, "the more destructive war becomes the more fascinating we find it."
Cusins and Barbara are horrified at the idea of the destruction of warfare, however. Cusins promises to use his
influence in the business to "make war on war" to bring about good for everyone.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Barbara

Major Barbara is the central character for whom the play is named and the symbol and
voice of idealism. She is the daughter of Lady Britomart and her estranged husband,
Andrew Undershaft, a rich industrialist and owner of a munitions factory. In the
beginning of the play, Barbara has had little contact with her father and totally
disapproves of the source of his wealth. Young and idealistic, Barbara works with the
Salvation Army, whose causes she totally supports. She believes her purpose in life is
to save the souls of the poverty-stricken individuals who come to the Salvation Army
shelter where she is employed. Both kind and patient, she is a hard worker and has
risen to the rank of Major. Barbara is engaged to Cusins, another employee of the
Salvation Army, and they plan to marry soon.

Barbara is shocked when Mrs. Bains, the commissioner of the shelter where she
works in West Ham, accepts donations from a liquor baron and from her own father, a
munitions manufacturer; her ideals about the Salvation Army are shattered by the
reality of its funding by rich industrialists who have questionable means of earning
money. Barbara is so disillusioned that she decides to permanently leave the Salvation
Army; however, when she visits her father's factory, she realizes that she can continue
her work of saving souls among the workers in the factory; her mission will be easier
since she will not have to 'bribe' them with bread and milk, as she used to at the
shelter in West Ham.

Throughout the play, Barbara comes across as a sincere, strong, and committed
Christian who truly believes her mission in life is to save souls. She goes about her
work at the Salvation Army with a missionary zeal that is both inspiring and moving.
When her father, Mr. Undershaft, observes her at work, he knows that she is the only
one of his children that would be capable of someday running his factory. He,
however, is disturbed by her misplaced idealism, for he believes that people in
poverty cannot truly be saved; they are too concerned about providing food and
clothing for themselves to think about higher spiritual things. He makes Barbara
realize that she needs to temper her idealism with reality. In the end, he convinces her
that she will have much greater success saving souls at his factory than at the
Salvation Army.
By depicting Barbara's conflict between idealism and realism, Shaw seems to be
addressing many young people like her, who are striving to reform their society in
idealistic ways. He clearly shows that idealism, without any basis on reality, cannot
provide a solution to the problems of society. The challenge is to come to terms with
the real world, like Undershaft, and find real solutions that can work, like Major
Barbara has done in the play.

Mr. Undershaft

Andrew Undershaft is the symbol and voice of realism in the play. He is a successful
millionaire who has accumulated his wealth by selling guns and canons. Like most of
Shaw's key characters, he is extremely intelligent, imaginative, outspoken, and
eloquent. Because of his radically different views, he is misunderstood by his
relatives, including his own wife (Lady Britomart), his son (Stephen), and his
daughter (Barbara). In not giving Undershaft a fair chance, they expose their own
hypocrisy, for they believe he must be all bad because of what he manufactures. When
they finally go to see his factory, they are shocked to find how well it is organized,
how clean it is, and how happy the workers seem to be. Even the idealistic Barbara
states that things are much better than she had imagined and agrees to live in the
factory town when she marries Cusins.

Mr. Undershaft stands out in a society where a person is respected for his money and
where everything is hidden under a false set of values, which no one follows. Unlike
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, and
wealth is his religion. He is obviously more honest than Lady Britomart and Cusins,
who are motivated by money, but preach morality to others. The manner in which
Lady Britomart invites her estranged husband home when she wants to arrange a fixed
income for her daughters, reveals that though her husband's profession (making
weapons) goes against her moral values (she considers it to be a sinful profession),
she does not think twice about Undershaft's source of income when she needs money
for her daughters or when she insists that their son should be made the heir to the huge
Undershaft empire. In a like manner, Cusins easily leaves the Salvation Army behind
to accept the challenge of learning the ammunition factory so that he can eventually
run and own it.

Throughout the play, Shaw uses Undershaft as a vehicle to convey his views and
criticize conventional beliefs about charitable organizations and politics. 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.

Lady Britomart

Lady Britomart is the daughter of the Earl of Stevenage, a well- read, sharp-tongued
woman of fifty. Because of her wealthy, aristocratic background, she has set herself
apart, totally alienated from the rest of society. Even her own children find her to be
an unkind and scolding woman. Totally concerned over money, Lady Britomart
breaks up her marriage to Andrew Undershaft over the issue of inheritance. When
Undershaft tells Britomart (or 'biddy,' as he calls her) that his business empire will not
go to their son, Stephen, but to a capable 'foundling' who can be properly trained to
run the business, Lady Britomart is horrified. However, when her daughters are
engaged to be married, Lady Britomart does not hesitate to ask her estranged husband
to provide them with an income, even if it does come from money raised by selling
weapons. She is obviously a manipulative and hypocritical woman, who preaches one
set of morals and lives another.

Adolphous Cusins

Cusins, previously a professor, is depicted to be a total hypocrite. He joins the


Salvation Army only because he is in love with Major Barbara. Although he expresses
a high moral view, he does not really put it into practice. He never has a commitment
to the Salvation Army, but pretends that he does. Unlike Barbara who is distressed
over her decision to leave the Army behind, Cusins does not give a second thought to
his decision to quit in order to run the munitions factory. In the second act, Cusins is
vociferous in condemning Undershaft's business, calling it 'the factory of death and
destruction'. However, in the very next act, Cusins put all his lofty morals aside to
prove that he is indeed eligible to inherit the Undershaft business empire. He accepts
Undershaft's offer, even though he believes it will mean that there is no future for
Barbara and him. Then the 'sophisticated' professor haggles with Andrew Undershaft
about his share of profits in the company. The only redeeming aspect of Cusins is that
Barbara loves him; therefore, there must be some worth in his character.

Peter Shirley

Peter Shirley is an honest and hard working man, who appears older than his age
because of his gray hair. He comes to the Salvation Army because he has lost his job,
for his employer thought that he was too old. Almost as idealistic as Barbara, he
believes that it is better to die in poverty than accept charity and his self-respect is
injured when Jenny Hill gives him some food at the shelter. His main purpose in the
play is to stand in contrast to Andrew Undershaft, the wealthy and realistic
industrialist. Peter Shirley, on the other hand, is an idealistic, poverty-stricken man.
He genuinely believes that they only reason that the wealthy are successful is because
the poor people work for and are exploited by them.

Price Bronterre

Price Bronterre is an intelligent young man who is the antithesis of Peter Shirley.
Called 'Snobby' by his friends, he leaves his job because he feels that he is not being
paid for what his skills are worth. He comes to the Salvation Army with no shame,
wanting his material needs to be fulfilled. Unlike Peter, he is not affected by the fact
that he is living on charity or does not have a job. Since he is a big talker, Snobby
quickly reveals that he really has no scruples about anything. The manner in which he
slyly walks away with Bill Walker's money reveals his true nature. Shaw, however,
seems tolerant of Snobby's weaknesses, for he believes that honesty and other high
moral values can only be held by people who are materially well off (the middle class
and the rich). Snobby, since he is poor, cannot stick to any principle for long, for he,
like others living in poverty, must be concerned about meeting his basic material
needs.