The Salvation Army’s “Garden” and Cusins’s Books
In Major Barbara, the garden motif appears in the form of two outdoor settings (the yard of the Salvation Army shelter and Perivale St. Andrew) and the library motif appears in the character of Cusins, the man of books and libraries, and Shaw employs these two motifs for the purpose of developing the statement of the play that poverty remains the “vilest sin of man and society” and that money is “the first need.” Shaw usually depicts a world that is characterized by comfort, elegance, and affluence—a world of pleasant décor, lovely gardens, impeccable libraries, and sunny days. Major Barbara deviates from this practice, for here he is clearly developing his thesis about poverty which he articulates in his Preface. The world of the English garden as a sign of respectability and as a place of social intercourse has vanished, and in its place appears an outdoor scene, the Salvation Army “yard,” which is the only outdoors facility available to the impoverished indigents as they engage in their garden-like activities.
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