Anti- romantic Attitude in Major Barbara: As a playwright Shaw Refuse to Write a Single Line for the Sake of Art Alone


Here is no wicked side: life is all one.”-Major Barbara

As a playwright Shaw refuse to write a single line for the sake of art alone.

G. B. Shaw's plays are intended to expose the hollowness of all social institutions which have outlived utility. Bent on expelling the ‘heresy’ of romance from life and art alike, Shaw always maintains a rigidly anti-romantic stance.. As an iconoclast he dismantles all impractical idealism and combats silly sentimentality. In Major Barbara too Shaw reviews ideas like religious faith, corrupt money, crime and punishment bustard etc. from a realistic point.



Despite his partiality for the exuberance and earnestness of devoting of the Salvation Army workers, Shaw in Major Barbara unveils the futility of religious pursuit in a class divided society. At the shelter of the Salvationists the poor people indulge in nasty lying habit in the name of confession. Here Rummy and price sensational sins to get their soul saved. But actually they want food shelter, for have no means of livelihood but the charity doled out by religious organizations like the Salvation Army. A realist Shaw point out the futility of converting starving men with a Bible in one hand and a slice of bread in the other’. He explodes the Christian youth that the poor are ‘blessed’ and Shaw that poverty does not ennoble but demoralizes man. Shaw here takes an ant-romantic attitude to poverty, the ‘worst of all cranes.’ He thinks that Fairfield and shrivel might have languages a crusade against the inhuman social system which fosters poverty. But the ‘bribe’ of bread’ offered by the religious bodies dampens their spirits, that is, ‘draws the teeth of the poor’.
Shaw is anti-romantic even on the issue of so-called tainted money. In the chilly winter months starvation looms large and the west Ham Shelter must be classed for want of money. At this time Badger the distiller promises a help of five thousand pounds provided a matching grant is collected from other sources. Hearing this Mr. Undershirt comes forward. But Barbara is unwilling to accept their money, for she thinks that Badger is a distiller and her father is a maker of cannons. Their money, according to her, is corrupt-it smacks of drunkenness and murder. She even leaves the Salvation Army without compromising her principles. But Shaw sows that her principles, through Nobel, are romantic. Such ideas are highly fragile. Barbara’s volts-facet thrummed when she is convinced that ‘turning our backs on Badger and Undershirt is turning our backs on life’ is a Shavian cancellation of his romanticism. She now realizes that it is Undershaft tainted money that ‘enabled Barbara to become Major Barbara’, that virtues like love and mercy are really ‘the graces and luxuries of a rich, strong and safe life.’
 Shaw also takes a strictly anti-romantic stand on the prevailing punitive mode of reformation of criminals the Bill Walker episode as an instance in point. Bill terrorizes Snobby Price and even does not hesitate to strike helpless woman like Jenny and Rummy. For these atrocities normally would be remanded and punished. Rummy wants to take this action against him when she threatens him law. But this would simply make him a hardened criminal. Afterwards when Jenny requests Bill to help Rummy with two shillings he strongly protests: ‘Not lankly…. Let her eve the lawr of me as she threatened.’    
                                                                  
But Bill gets an altogether different from Barbara who stands up to him without either or mercy. Barbara even tells him that Jenny Hill prays for him. When Bill cannot get hated, and cannot pay for his misdeed his conscience is aroused. 
 Shaw’s play thus plays havoc among all romantic idealism that struck him as hallow. It should be borne in mind that Shaw ‘explodes idealism not to plunge us in cynicism’ (Compton). He rather travesties vapory ideas to salvage us from romantic anarchism and ‘moral chaos’ begotten by our ‘half-satisfied passions, instead of a …… genuinely scientific natural history.’

 Ardhendu De