“Life Here Is a Perfect Idyll”
By examining Shaw’s use of the garden and the library in Widowers’ Houses in meticulous detail, one gains an appreciation of the complexity, subtlety, and mastery which Shaw therein reveals, as well as an insight into the play’s deeper textual implications. Satorius, whose mother was a poor washerwoman, has pulled himself up from extreme poverty by making a fortune in slum dwellings and presently craves nothing more in the world than for him and his daughter to be accepted by upper class society, a desire which is dramatized by means of the garden and library. Widowers’ Houses also exposes the heartlessness and injustices of British society. It is a remarkable example of Shaw’s dramatic practice of integrating gardens and libraries into the revelation of characters (as well as the implications of their names), the delineation of conflict, the symbolic value of the settings, the establishment of atmosphere, and the development of the theme of pretense and hypocrisy.
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