Major Barbara: Act 2 Part 4
Price and Jenny come out from the shelter and she is carrying a tambourine full of coppers. Barbara also comes over and says how moved she was by Price’s confession. Jenny informs her that they have raised four and tenpence from those who listened to him and Barbara says if only he had given his mother another kick they would have raised five shillings. Price tells her that if she had heard of this, she would be sorry he had not and adds that she will be pleased when she hears he has been saved.
Undershaft offers to contribute some money and Barbara says he cannot buy his salvation. She goes on to argue that he has blood on his hands. She then turns to Cusins and informs him he must write another letter to the newspapers as the starvation this winter is beating them. If they cannot raise any more money, the shelter will have to close. Undershaft says ‘with profound irony’ that ‘genuine unselfishness is capable of anything’ and unsuspectingly she agrees. Cusins calls Undershaft Mephistopheles and Machiavelli.
Walker returns with his chin sunk on his chest and he describes how Todger prayed for him while he used him as a carpet. Barbara is amused, but Jenny feels sorry for him. However, he does not want her forgiveness. He had wanted Todger to break his jaw as he thought this would make up for hitting Jenny. As this did not happen, Walker offers them a sovereign instead. He is told the Salvation Army cannot take it, but he may give it to Rummy as he really did hurt her. He refuses to do this and does not want to play the Christian game, but Barbara tells him the Army will not be bought. They want his soul and nothing less.
Undershaft interrupts and says if they accept Walker’s money, he will donate a further £99. Barbara tells her father this is too extravagant as Walker has given 20 pieces of silver, so he only has to offer ten. Walker throws his money down saying he can give no more. When Price hears his mother is at the gate having heard about his confession, he skulks off and takes Walker’s money at the same time.
Mrs. Baines, a Salvation Army commissioner, has appeared and she tells them her prayers for more money have been answered. Lord Saxmundham has promised them £5,000 if five other gentlemen will give £1,000 each. Barbara has not heard of this man and her father explains this is Sir Horace Bodger the distiller of whisky. After being asked for help from Mrs Baines, Undershaft agrees to make up the other £5,000. Barbara stops him writing the cheque and asks Mrs. Baines if she is actually going to take his and Bodger’s money. He completes the cheque and tells Mrs. Baines that every convert she makes is a vote against war and so this money will help to hasten his financial ruin. Both she and Jenny are pleased with the donation, but Cusins sees the irony. He then says they should march to the great meeting at once and a trombone, which he gives to Undershaft, and a flag.
Barbara tells Cusins (Dolly) that he is breaking her heart and cannot come with them. She takes off her silver Salvation Army brooch and gives it to her father. When Mrs Baines asks her to pray for them, Barbara says she cannot pray now and probably never will again. Cusins, Undershaft, Mrs Baines and Jenny march off.
Walker then accuses Barbara of taking his money, but Rummy informs him Price took it. Barbara offers to send him the money he is missing and sneers at the idea that Price was saved. He leaves and Barbara tells Shirley she is like him now: cleaned out and without a job. She has enough left to buy them tea, shelter for him and her fare home. She urges him to come with her to talk to her about Tom Paine’s books and Bradlaugh’s lectures. The act ends with Shirley saying, ‘Ah, if you would only read Tom Paine in the proper spirit, miss!’
Barbara’s resignation from the Salvation Army is precipitated by what she sees as a conflict of interests. The acceptance of the donations made by Bodger and Undershaft demonstrate an act of bad faith on the part of the Salvation Army in her eyes as they have earned their money through alcohol and arms respectively. At this point in the play, she aims to separate the religion from the rest of society and regards their money as tainted with blood.