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Study Guide to Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw

A comprehensive study guide offering in-depth explanation, essay, and test prep for George Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara, considered a literary classic due to the novel’s religious themes contradicting the religious ideas of the time period.

As an early nineteenth century play, Major Barbara provides political commentary on the matter of whether it is morally right or wrong to obtain something that is used for a good cause from death and destruction. Moreover, it encourages conversation among students about whether a charitable act maintains its value even when its roots were immoral.

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About the Author

Image of  George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950), known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Shaw co-founded the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama. Over the course of his life he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his plays address prevailing social problems, but each also includes a vein of comedy that makes their stark themes more palatable. In these works Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

An ardent socialist, Shaw was angered by what he perceived to be the exploitation of the working class. He wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. For a short time he was active in local politics, serving on the London County Council.

In 1898, Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom he survived. They settled in Ayot St. Lawrence in a house now called Shaw's Corner.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938). The former for his contributions to literature and the latter for his work on the film "Pygmalion" (adaptation of his play of the same name). Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright, as he had no desire for public honours, but he accepted it at his wife's behest. She considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English.

Shaw died at Shaw's Corner, aged 94, from chronic health problems exacerbated by injuries incurred by falling.

Source: GoodReads.com