Major Barbara


Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Well you see, my dear boy, when you are organizing civilization you have to make up your mind whether trouble and anxiety are good things or not. If you decide that they are, then, I take it, you simply don't organize civilization; and there you are, with trouble and anxiety enough to make us all angels! But if you decide the other way, you might as well go through with it.

Undershaft makes this cheeky repartee to Stephen during the family's visit to Perivale St. Andrews in Act III. It responds to Stephen's concern that the amenities of the community might work to soften the workers and render them lazy. Though perhaps not obviously important thematically, the passage provides a good example of Undershaft's rhetorical abilities. Of particular importance here is Undershaft's rhetoric of common sense. If one goes about organizing civilization, one should do away with trouble and anxiety. Only the moralists prize the two as virtues. Undershaft presents the truth of his gospel as self- evident. Note the patronizing interjection, "my dear boy," underscoring how what Undershaft presents should be obvious. The power of such rhetoric is to exclude what it casts as commonsensical from critique. For example, what does it means for a millionaire to set himself to the task of "organizing civilization" in the first place.