Study Guide

Major Barbara Society and Class

By George Bernard Shaw

Society and Class

Given that we have a character named Lady Britomart, you know from the get-go that discussions of class and society with a capital "S" are going to be part of the mix. Lady B fancies that she's not a snob like the rest of her family, but she does have some definite ideas about how people in her family's class should be acting.

Barbara does, too. Even though she's happy to live the lifestyle of a pauper when we first meet her, she is very keen on avoiding "middle-class" ideas about morality—and, ultimately, decides that her morals and principles must match those of her class. What does that mean? Well, read on . . . but the big takeaway here is that class is a big deal, whether the characters want to admit it or not.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Lady Brit claims not to be a snob—do you believe her? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think that Lady Brit would excuse Andrew's other "immoral" behavior if he would just agree to make Stephen the heir to his fortune? In other words, is his big sin going against his class? Or perhaps coming from the lower classes in the first place?
  3. Does Barbara's class-consciousness develop or change throughout the play? How do we know?

Chew on This

Lady Brit is not a snob—we know because she's very accepting of her future son-in-law, Dolly, who is a professor of Greek and a foreigner—i.e., not of the same class as her family.

Lady Brit is totally a snob—and a hypocrite; if Andrew had been willing to let Stephen take over the business and act according to the rules of their class (rather than going outside the class/family for an heir), her objections to his "immoral" profession would have disappeared pretty quickly.

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