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Free Study Guide for Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw-MonkeyNotes
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The Play, set in three acts, takes place in London. The first Act is set in Lady Britomart's House. In Act II, the action shifts to the Salvation Army Shelter, where Major Barbara is employed. The setting shifts back to Lady Britomart's house in the third and final Act.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Lady Britomart

The daughter of an Earl. From the British upper class, she is a lady in her fifties who is very conscious about maintaining the appropriate social decorum. She is also shrewd, practical, and sharp-tongued. She has single-handedly brought up her children after separating from her husband, Mr. Andrew Undershaft.

Mr. Undershaft

The husband of Lady Britomart and the father of Major Barbara. He is a successful and wealthy businessman who has made millions of pounds by selling the guns and canons made in his munitions factory; Undershaft torpedoes, submarines, and rampart guns are famous all over the world. Undershaft acts as Shaw's spokesperson in the play and is a very important character within the plot. It is through him that Shaw advocates his beliefs that poverty is the worst crime and that only a successful socialist can build the perfect society. He is also the one who helps his daughter, Barbara, temper her idealism with reality.


Major Barbara

The young, idealistic daughter of Lady Britomart and Andrew Undershaft and the fiancée of Adolphous Cusins. At the first of the play, she is a committed member of the Salvation Army, believing in their philosophies and working in their shelter in West Ham, London. Holding the rank of Major, she handles all kinds of people with a great deal of patience, firmness, and sincerity. At the end of the play, she becomes disillusioned over the hypocrisy of the Salvation Army and resigns. After she marries Cusins, she plans to become a member of the ideal town created by her father's munitions factory, where she will continue her work of 'saving souls' on people who are not poor and starving.

Adolphous Cusins

A member of the Salvation Army and Major Barbara's fiancé. He is an intelligent young man and a previous scholar and professor of Greek language and literature. He is also a hypocrite, for he has joined the Salvation Army only because he is in love with Major Barbara. At the end of the play, he becomes the head of the Undershaft Munitions Foundry.

Minor Characters

Peter Shirley

A middle-aged worker who appears to be older than his age due to his gray hair. He loses his job because his employer thinks he is too old to work. He comes to the Salvation Army because he is in need of help. Although he is against capitalism, at the end of the play, he accepts a job at Undershaft's factory.

Price Bronterre

The young unemployed workman who is extremely sharp and agile. He comes to the Salvation Army to get a square meal. Unlike Shirley, he does not posses any scruples or principles in life.

Jenny Hill

A sincere, over-worked girl of eighteen years of age at the Salvation Army.

Charles Lomax

The frivolous young fiancé of Sarah Undershaft.

Sarah

The daughter of Lady Britomart and Andrew Undershaft and Major Barbara's sister.

Stephen Undershaft

Lady Britomart's young son of twenty- five. Serious and shy by nature, he admires his mother and hates his father and his business. Because of his incompetence, Undershaft disinherits him and leaves his fortune to Cusins and Major Barbara.

Bill Walker

The foul-mouthed worker who hates the Salvation Army and its work. When he tries to buy forgiveness, his donation of five dollars is rejected.

Mrs. Bains

The head or commissioner of the Salvation Army. She is willing to take donations from liquor barons and arms manufacturers in order to carry on the work of the Salvation Army.

Romola Mitchens or Rummy Mitchens

A woman who comes to the Salvation Army pretending to be a bad person in order to save herself from starvation. It is only at the shelter that she has any hope of getting food or work.

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