Major Barbara: Act 2 Part 3
Undershaft asks what is wrong with Walker and Barbara says they shall cure him in no time and tells her father to watch. She goes over to Walker and says it would be nice to jump on Mog Habbijam’s face, ‘wouldn’t it, Bill?’ He starts up at this and accuses her of lying. She says his new friend, the devil, told her. He attempts (but fails) to sound cheerful and asks her to stop getting at him. She says it is not her and implies it is God. He is almost crying when she persists in trying to convert him and he asks her to leave him alone; she says it his soul that is hurting and tells him to come with them ‘to brave manhood on earth and eternal glory in heaven’.
She then introduces him to Cusins and Walker sympathizes with him for their forthcoming marriage. Walker informs her he is going to Canning Town to spit in Todger’s eye. Todger will then hit him back harder than he hit Jenny and that will make them all square. Barbara argues against this, but Cusins agrees with him as he thinks this is what the ancient Greeks would have done.
When Bill leaves, Barbara asks Cusins to show her father around and the two men then talk alone. Their discussion falls to religion and Undershaft says there are two things necessary for salvation: money and gunpowder. Cusins is surprised but interested in this idea as he believes this is the general opinion of the governing classes, but it is a novelty to hear ‘any man confess it’. With further prompting, Undershaft argues that without money and gunpowder, one cannot afford honor, justice, truth, love and mercy. Cusins informs him that Barbara will not stand for this and he will have to choose between her and his ‘religion’. Undershaft replies that Cusins will have to also as she will soon discover that his drum is hollow. Cusin tells him he is mistaken as he is a sincere Salvationist and then quotes Euripedes to him.
They come to some agreement and Undershaft becomes excited at the thought of handing his torch on to Barbara as her inspiration comes from within herself. He wants her to make converts to his cause and to preach his gospel. Cusins says this is interesting and also refers to him (and himself) as mad. Undershaft implies that Barbara is too and that all three are separate from the ‘common mob of slaves and idolators’. Cusins warns him that Barbara is in love with the common people and asks if he has never felt this romance. Undershaft tells him he has been common and poor and ‘it has no romance for me’. He ends by saying, ‘Barbara must belong to us, not to the Salvation Army’ and will buy the Salvation Army for this to happen. When Cusins questions this, Undershaft argues ‘all religious organizations exist by selling themselves to the rich’.
Cusins attempts to explain how this organization helps people; for example, by making them sober. Undershaft counters each of his points and says he prefers sober workmen as the profits are larger. He prefers the workers to be honest as they are more economical. He likes them to be happy as this is a safeguard against revolution. If the workers are unselfish, this makes them indifferent to their own interests. Finally, if they have their thoughts on ‘heavenly things’, they will not be thinking of Trade Unionism nor socialism. Shirley comes out to them at this point and Undershaft says, ‘this is an honest man’. Shirley answers in agreement and asks what he has got by it.
Undershaft’s preference for capitalism is reiterated once more as he responds to Cusins in the latter part of this section. This has an element of humor as Undershaft makes the point that the work of the Salvation Army is beneficial to him, as this organization promotes conformity rather than revolution. The push for teetotal law-abiding citizens is seen to provide him with the ideal workforce. Through this conversation, the parallels between Christianity and obedience are drawn and it is suggested that this faith creates a subjected populace ideal for making millions for the occasional individual.