“It is not my business to flatter the Salvation Army”. “It (the Salvation Army) is even more dependent than the church (church of England) on rich people who would cut off supplies at once if it began to preach dispensable revolt against poverty which also must be a revolt against riches”. Shaw makes the above comments in the preface to Major Barbara. He presents this view of religious organizations role playing as tools of social engineering for the rich among other controversial views on morality and religion, particularly directed on Christian beliefs of the Salvation Army, one of the foremost organizations of Christianity of his time. Shaw pits the morality of his own “Gospel of St Andrew Undershaft” against those of the Salvation Army.
This Gospel according to Shaw, identifies poverty as the greatest crime ever and its morality aims to cleanse the society of this vice. Undershaft explains in the third act establishing “there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, they poison us morally and physically” the last point of which alludes to the supposedly intolerable and immoral phrases mentioned in the preface: “Poor but honest,” and “the respectable poor” often used by people like Shirley to justify poverty. While poverty needs to be eradicated to some extent, I am of the opinion that it is not so great an evil and in reality, it is needed to provide the necessary motivation and incentive for hard work, Undershaft himself talks about his difficulty in “finding a man that would be out of the running altogether if he were not a strong man” as an heir to his business, the man he describes here could only be one who has seen poverty and has such strong will to rise against it...
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...reader. The Prosperity in Perivale is also observed to come at the price of death and destruction somewhere else, He, however advocates for realistic minimum wages and pension provisions. It is unclear exactly where Shaw personally stands on these issues of morality and religion, except of course his extreme contempt for poverty as he sometimes presents valid arguments on opposing sides, In Summary, He shares the visions of the salvation army in fighting against poverty but not their methods and shows us that life never presents us with ultimately good choices but we might as well go with the options that seem better, and if they fail to fit the facts, scrap it and find one that will. This is the lesson Barbara and Cusins take to heart in the end as they start their new lives.
Shaw, Bernard. Major Barbara. Markham, Ontario : Penguin, 2001. Print
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