Study Guide

Major Barbara Act 2

By George Bernard Shaw

Act 2

  • The second act picks up at the yard at the Salvation Army, where a man and a woman are sitting there chatting. Their names are "Snobby" Price and "Rummy" Mitchens.
  • Then Jenny, a young girl who works at the Army, and a man named Peter Shirley walk in. She's trying to cheer Shirley up and promising him something to eat. It seems he's a bit down on his luck, like the others who come to the Army.
  • Jenny is about to get back to work, but then a young guy named Bill walks in and recognizes Jenny as the person who supposedly took away his girl. Can someone inform him that women aren't toys that get snatched, please?
  • When Rummy tries to intervene, Bill hits her. Then, he pulls Jenny around by the hair demanding that she go get his girlfriend and then, when she tries to send someone to tell Major Barbara something (she never gets the words out), he gets really mad and hits her. And then tells her to go show Barbara her face. She leaves.
  • Then, Shirley and Bill start arguing. Shirley taunts him by asking if Bill would fight someone who could actually fight back, like some guy named Todger Fairmile, who is apparently quite the fighter.
  • Barbara then comes out, and she, Bill, and Shirley start talking. Since Shirley is new, she interviews him a bit about his story.
  • Then she moves on to questioning Bill. She ends up revealing that the "girl" he's looking for has found a new dude—Sergeant Todger Fairmile. Bill was raring to fight the guy who had stolen his girl until he hears the guy is the famous fighter Shirley was talking about.
  • Rummy and Jenny come back in, and then Price comes in to announce that Andrew is here (he then leaves).
  • Barbara, Andrew, Rummy, Shirley, and Bill then engage in conversations on a whole slew of topics, including religion and poverty. Dolly enters partway through the chat.
  • Bill goes to fight Fairmile, resigned to getting his face bashed in—which he now believes he deserves, after hitting Jenny.
  • Adolphus and Undershaft end up sitting in the yard on their own.
  • Dolly and Undershaft have a heart-to-heart about Dolly's feelings for Barbara and actual commitment to the Army (he's not that into it; he's just in it for the girl). They also talk about Undershaft's philosophies of religion, wealth, etc.
  • Then Jenny, Price, and Barbara reenter. Barbara talks about their triumphs in converting others with Price telling his story. They didn't quite make enough from their outing, though, so Andrew offers to make up the difference. Since Barbara doesn't approve of the way her father makes his money, she refuses his offer.
  • However, she remains pretty stressed about how to feed her converts on the money the Army does have.
  • Bill comes back to report that he just spent some time pinned under Todger while the fighter prayed for him.
  • Since Todger didn't actually hit him, Bill still feels he needs to atone for hitting Jenny. So, he tries to donate some money to make things right. Barbara says they must refuse it—they want his soul instead. Nonetheless, he ends up dropping a sovereign on Dolly's drum as a donation. However, Price has his eye on the money . . . .
  • Then Mrs. Baines, the Army commissioner, enters. Price exits, stealing the sovereign on his way out.
  • Mrs. Baines announces that her prayers for money to keep the Army shelters open have been answered: someone named Lord Saxmundham has pledged five thousand pounds as long as five other gentlemen will give a thousand each to make it an even ten.
  • It then comes out that this newly minted lord is Sir Horace Bodger, a distiller. Knowing who the dude is, Andrew relishes the idea of making sure that he has to pay out the five thousand, so he promises Mrs. Baines the other five.
  • Barbara, of course, is horrified that her precious Army is going to be saved by whisky and munitions money.
  • Baines, Dolly, and Undershaft all give their arguments in favor of accepting the money—including the fact that Bodger and Undershaft are basically giving to a cause that works against their interests/for Barbara's. Barbara ends up outnumbered and upset.
  • Dolly, Undershaft, and Mrs. Baines leave to go out on the march while Barbara hangs back and cries.
  • Then she, Shirley, and Bill chat... with some interjections from Rummy screaming from the loft. Bill is being his usual taunting self, and Barbara laments that she was unable to convert him. He then realizes his sovereign is gone... and isn't pleased.
  • Bill leaves, and Barbara asks Shirley to come have a bite to eat with her.

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