Major Barbara: Metaphor Analysis
The arms trade is represented by the Undershaft cannon business and is initially criticized for being too powerful and for operating outside the law. It symbolizes capitalism in all its glory and violence as it certainly trades in death.
As the play progresses, however, Undershaft and his business represent the more honest approach to existing in a capitalist society. This is seen in contrast with the Salvation Army, which depends on the supposed confessions of those in poverty to raise funds for its maintenance.
The Salvation Army is depicted in this play as dependent upon false confessions from its apparently saved souls for charitable donations. It is through the exaggerated and untrue claims of sins that this Christian organization exists.
Because of this, the confession may be seen to represent the hypocrisy underpinning the Army as its existence is based on lies. The more outlandish and ugly the confession, the more likely it is that money will be given. With this exaggeration and dishonesty, the charity is seen to not only be based on a lie, but it also indicated that the wider society prefers to help those who repent rather than those who are starving from the effects of capitalism.
When Walker fails to induce Todger Fairmile to hit him, he attempts to give the Salvation Army a sovereign to compensate for his violence. Because he does not repent, or want to be saved, this is regarded as ‘blood money’ by Barbara. She also sees her father’s donation in a similar light. The only donation she is interested in is one not derived from unsaved sources. By the end of the play, though, she comes to believe that it is impossible to escape the influence of capitalism.
Because of Barbara’s changing attitude to economics, the play argues that lack of money (that is, poverty) is the greatest sin as Undershaft claims. Money represents both the main evil in society and the solution to the problems created by capitalism. Because of this, the play never fully critiques capitalism as it is represented as inevitable and inescapable.