Major Barbara, Paperback Book
2 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Andrew Undershaft, a millionaire armaments manufacturer, loves money and despises poverty.

His estranged daughter Barbara, on the other hand, shows her love for the poor by throwing her energies into her work as a Major in the Salvation Army, and sees her father as another soul to be saved.

But when the Army needs funds to keep going, it is Undershaft who saves the day with a large cheque - forcing Barbara to examine her moral assumptions.

Are they right to accept money that has been obtained by 'Death and Destruction'?

Full of lively comedy and sparkling debate, Major Barbara is one of Shaw's most forward-looking plays, brilliantly testing the tensions between religion, wealth and power, benevolence and equality, and metaphors and realities of war.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Plays, playscripts
  • ISBN: 9780140437904

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I feel like the genius of the play's ideas merits more than 2 stars; HOWEVER, this wasn't an enjoyable read. Far from it. From hopelessly trying to decipher the writing style Shaw uses to portray the dialect of the poor to struggling to determine what exactly Shaw was recommending, I found it difficult to appreciate <i>Major Barbara</i>. <br/><br/>What I think Shaw is trying to say is that only through wealth can we eradicate poverty. Which, in the case of Undershaft using his munitions factory to outfit potentially oppressed peoples with weapons, is valid. It's also valid since Undershaft's factory complex is a mini-socialist utopia where all the needs of the workers are met. But in reality, I don't agree with this "solution" to poverty. Unfortunately, most wealthy people aren't intelligent and kindly Undershafts. Most rich business owners work selfishly for themselves and fail to protect the needs of the poor. <br/><br/>But then again, I may have completely missed the point of the play; I truly have no idea. Perhaps I would better appreciate this if I saw it staged. Then some of my problems--namely the unreadable dialect--would disappear. It's also rather funny in spots, and again, humor always translates better on stage.

Review by

A play that doesn't know whether it wants to be a light drawing-room comedy or a Greek tragedy. The juxtaposition of light and dark scenes just doesn't work.

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