Major Barbara By George Bernard Shaw Character List

Andrew Undershaft Even though the play is entitled Major Barbara, Andrew Undershaft is the dominant figure of the play, and he is also Shaw's ironic spokesman, especially when Undershaft advocates that peace can best be achieved by the manufacture of munitions and arms of all sorts, that poverty is the worst of all crimes, as well as when he says that charity only contributes to poverty, that all money is tainted — meaning that none is — that sufficient money is better than a good conscience, that only a successful capitalist can actually afford to build the perfect socialistic society, and that a creator of destruction is necessary for the creator of a new social structure.

Major Barbara One of Undershaft's daughters; at first, she is a major in the Salvation Army, intent upon converting souls by providing them with bread and treacle, but she changes from being militant about the "rightness" of her religious organization in order to become a part of her father's munitions factory's ideal town, a town where people are already well fed and clothed and, thus, are not in materialistically dire straits as well as in spiritual distress. In this setting, she can practice her work of "saving souls" without having to deal with "free loaders."

Lady Britomart The estranged wife of Andrew Undershaft; as her name suggests, Lady Britomart is the epitome of the sterile upper class of Britain which is concerned with the usefulness of money and with maintaining the proper social decorum.

Stephen Undershaft The rather innocuous, if not inept, son of Andrew Undershaft and Lady Britomart. His lack of finances and competency is the impetus for the beginning of the play since Andrew Undershaft is about to disinherit him and leave the Undershaft fortune to a foundling, in keeping with the long tradition of always leaving the inheritance to a competent foundling rather than trust in the incompetence of family.

Adolphus Cusins Major Barbara's fiancé and a scholar of Greek language and literature; he has a highly imaginative and intellectual mind. There are a rather contrived series of events concerning his birth, making him technically an orphan (or foundling) — that is, technically, he is legitimate in Australia where he was born, but in Britain, he is considered to be a foundling because his mother was his father's wife's sister, a relationship that was not legally recognized in England; thus, as a foundling, he will become the next head of the Undershaft Munitions Foundry.

Charles Lomax Sarah's rather silly fiancé; he is constantly making stinging and ironic remarks. In contrast to Lady Britomart's views and in support of Andrew Undershaft's views, he illustrates perfectly that the "aristocracy" is not fit to run any type of business.

Morrison Lady Britomart's butler and an old retainer who was in service to the household before Lady Britomart and Andrew Undershaft separated; he is somewhat confused as to how to announce the sudden arrival of his old master. His confusion thus provides some basic comic relief.

Bill Walker A ruffian who bullies everyone in the Salvation Army Shelter; when he tries to "buy" forgiveness and atonement, his contribution of only a sovereign (about five dollars then) is rejected. This contrasts with the fact that while the Army rejects his small contribution, it is quite willing to accept the larger contribution (5,000 pounds — about 25,000 dollars) from a brewer and a munitions maker, Bodger and Undershaft. Bill Walker's utterance ("What price salvation now?") becomes a central comment on the nature of the Salvation Army and its ethics in accepting money from any source.

Mrs. Baines A rather high officer in the Salvation Army, she is in charge of raising money for the Army. Unlike Major Barbara, she sees no contradiction or violation of the principles of the Army in accepting money that some people (Major Barbara, for example) consider to be "tainted." Her point of view is that the wealthy Bodger does not force poor people to buy his gin and beer, and, therefore, his money is as good as any because along with Undershaft's contribution, these monies will allow the shelters to remain open for the benefit of the poor during the forthcoming winter. Without these contributions, thousands of poor people would have no place to turn for food or shelter. Thus, Miss Baines represents the practical aspects of the Salvation Army. She is a realist who understands the importance of money without questioning its source.

Snobby Price Seemingly, Snobby is a rather permanent fixture at the Salvation Army Shelter. He represents the hypocrite who lies in order to gain attention and who is willing to publicly acclaim his sins (he swears, for example, that he beats his poor old mother all the time) in order to help the Army collect money from those who are touched by his "heartbreaking confessions."

Rummy Mitchens Another fraudulent, hypocritical convert; she is an older woman who enjoys the attention that the young "lasses" at the shelter heap upon her because of the numerous and lurid "sins" that she is able to vividly narrate.

Peter Shirley Peter is a forty-six-year-old man who has been discharged from his job because he is too old. He is too proud to accept charity, and he strongly desires to find legitimate employment. He is both an ardent Secularist (as is Andrew Undershaft, we think!) and also anti-capitalistic even though at the end of the play, he accepts a job at the Undershaft Munitions Factory. When Peter first meets Andrew Undershaft, an often-quoted witty exchange occurs between the two men: Shirley tells Undershaft, "I wouldn't have your conscience, not for all your income," and Undershaft replies, "I wouldn't have your income, not for all your conscience."

Bilton The foreman at the munitions foundry who refuses to allow anyone to have matches. This is a humorous way of reminding everyone that they are liable to be "blown to smithereens" at any moment.

Mog Habbijem and Todger Fairmile These two characters never appear in the drama but they are often referred to. Mog Habbijem is the person whom Bill Walker is looking for because he is furious with the Salvation Army for converting her. Todger Fairmile is the expert wrestler (and therefore extremely strong) who is now Mog's boyfriend, and, as we hear later, he does not fight with Bill Walker but merely pins him down in an attempt to convert him. While this scene is only narrated in the drama, those who have seen the famous movie (1940) will remember that the skirmish scene was actually included.

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According to Undershaft, __________ is the most destructive thing, the worst of all crimes, known to mankind.




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