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Full Title Major Barbara
Author George Bernard Shaw
Type of Work Drama
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.
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Major Barbara!