Shaw’s plays, Arms and the Man and Man and Superman, are entertaining as well as serious, always putting forth political and social issues at its core. Thought provoking progressive debates on capitalism and socialism, marriage, and morals are also presented by the discussion of the characters. The 19th century debates of evolution have been suggested by the spokesperson, Don Juan, in Man and Superman. The characters are lively and appropriately contradict each other by expressing their varied and serious ideas.
Shaw treats two opposite situations in a realistic way for the purpose of revising accepted social ideal values and norms. He shows that life cannot be lived by romantic ideals or old fashioned views of conduct. By freeing herself from noble aristocratic notions of conduct, Raina saves and marries the man she loves. Shaw does not idealize women who live on an ivory tower. They all live near our surroundings in our day to day life. Women, in Arms and the Man, lie, eavesdrop, provoke quarrels and use every means available to succeed. Shaw tries to show that women are like men, likely to the same vices as well as capable of the same virtues when convention and romance are stripped away. “However, it cannot be denied that convention and romance still play a part in determining the position of women in society and the attitudes of the two sexes to one another” (Mukherjee xvi).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Sociopolitical Worldview of George Bernard Shaw
2. Introduction: Shaw as a reformer of social, political and theatrical conventions
3. War is the Coward’s Art
4. Socialism as a Way to Achieve Political and Economic Freedom
5. Futility of Romantic Love
6. Presentations of Upper Class Society
7. Conventional Family and Marriage as a Hindrance for Reformation
8. Life Force, the Core Relation between Man and Woman
9. Hope in Evolution, or the Replacement of Man by Superman
10. Conclusion: Shaw advertised his doctrines on the problems of modern society
11. Works Cited
The Don Juan story and the story of Arms and the Man are depicted by Shaw as the embodiment of the debates of socialism, Life Force and evolution; — two supportive stories for the progressive politics of the last two centuries. The age-old lover Don Juan here becomes a reluctant lover, John Tanner, who is the reformer of the society. His book, The Revolutionist’s Handbook is the embodiment of the progressive idea of democratic socialist evolutionary propaganda of George Bernard Shaw. This book provoked the idea on progressive political history, evolutionary biological outlook, reformatory idea on marriage, sex and moral life, ‘the political need for superman’. The Maxims for Revolutionists portion of the book incited the ideas of democracy, imperialism, liberty and equality, education, marriage, crime and punishment, masters and servants, virtues and vices, religion, greatness, beauty and happiness, reason, good intentions, charity, discipline, civilizations and many more. All these ideas written by Tanner are the philosophical thought-provoking ideas of Shaw to propagate for the betterment of whole mankind.
Though the mood of the play Man and Superman is lighthearted, it addresses some serious intellectual and philosophical issues. These issues were the debating issues in every social-political and religious area in the last two centuries. The audience may laugh at the time of the theatrical performance, but we know that the audience never forgets to think about the debatable issues. When the Maxims for Revolutionists expresses these ideas: “Beware of the man whose god is in the skies”, “Vice is waste of life. Poverty, obedience, and celibacy are the canonical vices”, “Home is the girl’s prison and the women’s workhouse” (Shaw Man 245-251), the reader’s age-old conventional world is shattered thoroughly by new ideas. In idea plays, it is not the action or the characters but the ideas that take central stage.
As a critic and thinker, Shaw questioned marriage, the family, education, religion, and — above all — capitalism for the purpose of reform. Shaw looked upon himself as a teacher, he claimed: “My reputation has been gained by my persistent struggle to force the public to reconsider its morals. I write plays with the deliberate object of converting the nation to my opinion in these matters” (qtd. in Pourgharib 85). In the long prefaces, which he prefixed to the printed editions of his plays, he came forward openly as a teacher and argued forcibly for his convictions, policies and programs.
His plays for the most part deal with modern sociological problems those arise from political and ethical standpoints. They are very definite pictures of his philosophy. Remembering back, T. S. Eliot, quoted in his Discovering Authors, said of him that
It might have been predicted that what he said then would not seem so subversive or blasphemous now. The public has accepted Mr. Shaw not by recognizing the intelligence of what said then, but by forgetting it; we must not forget that at one time Mr. Shaw was a very unpopular man. He is no longer the gadfly of the commonwealth; but even if he has never been appreciated it is something that he should be respected. (qtd. in Rainey 190)
Thus, Shaw keeps on having discussions with people from all walks of life — commoners to the intellectuals — for his controversial attitudes on various subjects. He likes to advertise himself and has never ceased to talk about his own beliefs and doctrines on the problems of modern society. In his plays, he expressed his views on love, marriage, sex relations, women, happiness, socialism, democracy, industrialization, religion, morality, virtue, sin, death, peace, war, slavery and a host of other topics. After examining some of these topics, it can easily be acknowledged that his remarks on these countless subjects are original, striking, and logical from different approaches.