Study Guide

Major Barbara Wealth/Poverty

By George Bernard Shaw

Wealth/Poverty

In this play (as in life), money and the desire for it are pretty important motivators. Whether Barbara or her mother are happy about it, wealth and money are crucial to their objectives and overall lives. Lady B basically admits as much at the beginning when she has to resign herself to asking Andrew for more money to support the girls as they prepare to get married. Barbara is a bit more reluctant to admit how much money drives even what she does, but she gets a wake-up call when the Army enthusiastically accepts money from her father and a whisky distiller—i.e., two people whose businesses, in her view, contribute to the nasty things the Army is trying to combat. Ultimately, the characters are kind of forced to admit that they need wealth, for better or worse, and it's not really something to be treated as inherently worse than poverty . . .

Questions About Wealth/Poverty

  1. Do you think Barbara has entirely embraced wealth/money and its importance by the end of the play? Why or why not? What about Dolly?
  2. Andrew claims that poverty is a "crime"—do you think the play bears that assertion out? If so, how?
  3. Andrew's attitudes toward wealth and poverty run pretty directly counter to a more traditionally Christian one, which values poverty over greed. Do these two viewpoints ever meet in the middle, or is one ultimately favored?

Chew on This

Wealth and poverty are inherently neither good nor bad in the play's universe—but if one is to be pursed/encouraged as part of a "moral" life, it's wealth. That's Undershaft's view, and it seems to be holding sway over basically everyone else toward the end.

Undershaft considers poverty inherently evil because money/wealth—i..e, stability—are absolutely necessary for allowing virtue to exist/flourish.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...