Saving Souls or Saving Money: A Bargain of Conversion in G. B. Shaw’s Major Barbara

Azeez Jasim Mohammed


George Bernard Shaw, as a secular writer, in Major Barbara tries to bring about an ethical balance between power and morals. As a matter of fact, life is governed by power factors while morals are masks those taken off in case of emergency. The paper, however, examines the struggle between fanaticism and secularism and the misconception of the exact meaning of bribery and charity.

The conflict is based on a bargain between Barbara as a Major in the Salvation Army and Undershaft as ammunitions magnate. The challenge builds on a bet between the two competitors. Either Barbara saves the soul of a capitalist tradesman or the Major accepts saving money. The bargain takes two rounds. The fatal blow is dealt when the Army commissioner accepts, so to speak, ‘tainted’ money.

The paper gives a lesson to the in charges not to behave foolishly. They should realistically think to avoid harming a third party. On one hand, Major Barbara rejects the monetary support that is given to the Salvation Army to keep on its reputation while the commissioner, Mrs. Baines, accepts the money to keep on its shelters open. Who is bribed and who is loyal? On the other hand, Undershaft, a secular realist, believes in doing everything to avoid poverty but Barbara, a fanatic idealist, does everything she can to avoid a real disrepute. Who is right and who is wrong?

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