full title · Major Barbara
author · George Bernard Shaw
type of work · Drama
genre · Melodrama
language · English
time and place written · Written in London, early 1900s
date of first publication · 1907; first produced in 1905 at the Royal Court Theater, London
publisher · Cox and Wyman, Ltd.
narrator · None
point of view · Point of view is not located as there is no narrator figure
tone · Ironic; cheeky; bombastic; ecstatic
tense · The play unfolds in the time of the present
setting (time) · January 1906
setting (place) · The library of Lady Britomart's home; the Salvation Army shelter; Perivale Saint Andrews.
protagonists · Barbara, Andrew Undershaft, Adolphus Cusins
major conflict · Needing to assure her children's respective futures, Lady Britomart has invited her ex-husband, the great military industrialist Andrew Undershaft, to meet his long-estranged family. Her eldest daughter Barbara is a major in the Salvation Army, intent on saving her father's soul. Undershaft, however, offers his gospel of money and gunpowder. Father and daughter strike a bargain: each will visit the other's place of work in a competition for the other's soul and the true path of salvation.
rising action · The play begins to prepare for its climax when Undershaft divulges his plan to purchase the Salvation Army to Cusins. A dialogue between he, Cusins, Barbara, and Army Commissioner Baines follows in which he craftily exacts his will.
climax · The play's most readily identifiable climax comes in Act II upon Undershaft's purchase of the Salvation Army and Barbara's resignation. Undershaft and Cusins lead a violently ecstatic march through the streets celebrating his patronage.
falling action · A crushed Barbara makes peace with Bill Walker, a young tough she almost converted, promises to get the honest Peter Shirley a job at her father's armory, and asks Peter to keep her company this afternoon.
themes · The crime of poverty and the ideal community; arms and the man; the will to killing
motifs · Class and dialect; the foundling
symbols · The drum; the dummy soldiers
foreshadowing · Major Barbara does not particularly make use of foreshadowing. Certainly Cusins's fascination with Undershaft from their meeting onward, however, foreshadows his conversion to his gospel of money and gunpowder.