Major Barbara

Introduction

Major Barbara is a three act play by George Bernard Shaw, written and premiered in 1905 and first published in 1907. The story involves an idealistic young woman, Barbara Undershaft, who is engaged in helping the poor as an official (a Major) in the Salvation Army in London. For many years Barbara and her siblings have been estranged from their father, Andrew Undershaft, who now reappears as a rich and successful munitions maker. Undershaft the father gives money to the Salvation Army, which offends Major Barbara who does not want to be connected to his "tainted" wealth. However, the father argues that poverty is a worse problem than munitions, and claims that he is doing more to help society by giving his workers jobs and a steady income than Major Barbara is doing to help them by giving them bread and soup. This 1905 play came before society had fully experienced the massive scale of the human cost from modern industrial weapons and warfare, but this would soon change during the coming carnage of World Wars I and II.


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