Character Analysis Henry Straker


Since Shaw had introduced the New Woman into British drama, it is not surprising that he did the same thing for the New Man. Enry Straker is the characteristic phenomenon of the New Age; he is the efficient mechanic, the product of the new technological education which ultimately will eliminate the ordinary working man. In the dedicatory epistle, Shaw stated that Straker is "an intentional dramatic sketch for the contemporary of Mr. H. G. Wells' anticipation of the efficient engineering class which will, he hopes, sweep the jabberers out of the way of civilization." In view of the fact that Jack Tanner is preeminently one of the "jabberers," Enry's role as Tanner's remarkable chauffeur is quite amusing.

Though no ordinary workman, Straker is aware that he is one of the indispensable men. Tanner wryly remarks: "I am slave to that car and you." Later, Violet explains to Malone: "I am sorry, Mr. Malone, if that man has been rude to you. But what can we do? He is our chauffeur . . . we are dependent upon him." Whether or not he believes that his schools are better than the universities as Tanner insists, Enry remains satisfied with his own training. And if he speaks cockney English, it is with the confidence that English so should be spoken. When Malone corrects him, he replies with calm superiority: "Hector in your own country; thats what comes o livin in provincial places like Ireland and America. Over here your Ector: if you aint noticed it before, you soon will."

Yet Enry is tolerant enough. When Tanner says, "You despise Oxford, Enry, don't you?" the chauffeur replies: "No I don't. Very nice sort of place. They teach you to be a gentleman there. In the Polytechnic they teach you to be an engineer or such like. See?" He is not devoid of culture despite the fact that Tanner accuses him of being a Philistine. He sets Tanner right when the latter attributes to Voltaire a saying that Enry knows is to be found in "Bow Mar Shay."

Finally, Enry is something of a realist. When Octavius virtuously states that he believes in the dignity of labor, the chauffeur dryly replies: "that's because you've never done any, Mr. Robinson." Again in reply to Tanner's statement that he is "a bit of a Socialist" himself, Enry remarks: "Most rich men are, I notice." And, of course, he knows more about women than does his master. It is he who first alerts Jack Tanner to the fact that Tanner is Ann's intended victim.

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