Idealism in Major Barbara
I believe there are two different types of people: those who view matters realistically and those who view matters idealistically. Realists only concern themselves with practical issues rather than those that are imaginary. They attempt to see things the way they really are and have the tendency to face facts. Idealists have thoughts or behaviors based on concepts of things as they should be. They try to see things the way they would want them to be in order to feel contempt about impractical visions. When I was younger: I viewed many things idealistically more so than I do now. For instance, the importance of praying before every meal was stressed in my church and at home. Consequently, I thought that it was absolutely necessary to pray before eating. Currently, however, I see this as being an impractical obstacle for putting yummies in my tummy. In the play "Major Barbara", one of the primary conflicts is idealism versus realism. Barbara Undershaft, one of the main characters, faces this conflict as an inner struggle. I feel that she is idealistic throughout much of the play but becomes more realistic towards the end.
One aspect that Barbara views idealistically is in her religion. She is a salvationist who thinks that people primarily come to the West Ham shelter in seek of religious guidance. She shows this by attempting to whiteness to everyone visiting the shelter but did not really concern herself with seeing that they got fed. Realistically, most of the visitors were there mainly because they were hungry. Barbara also believed that people should help others because of love for them. She tried to get Peter Shirley, one of the visitors, to help clean up at the shelter for this reason. Peter did it help out, but he did due to owing the shelter a meal instead of for love.
Next, Barbara views the relationship with her boyfriend, Adolphus Cusins, idealistically. She believes that Cusins joined the army strictly because he had the same ideals and moral ethics she does. Because of this, she taught him how to march and play the drum. Realistically, Cusins joined the army so he could get closer to Barbara. I can relate to this when I remember believing that everyone in the church attended faithfully because they wanted to worship God and no other reason came first.
At the end of act II, Barbara began seeing things more realistically. Her turning point occurs when she learns where the funding for the shelter comes from-rich people, like Bodger the distiller, whom she has been fighting her entire career at the Salvation Army. This is when Barbara realizes that many people help out the shelter to simply feel good about themselves, and that the rich were just trying to buy their faith by donating money. At this point, Barbara begins questioning everything else she believed in from the idealistic standpoint. She indicates this when she says rock underneath her has crumbled leaving her no where to stand. My turning point came as I began knowing some of the church members outside of church. After some time, I started hearing them say things like they go so they will not feel guilty; others go because they want to visit someone there, or because it looks good to make an appearance there.
At the end of the play Barbara understands her religion more realistically. She realizes that people went to the shelter because they needed food. Barbara also gains the knowledge that Cusins joined the army in order to get closer to her. This is indicated at the end of the play when Cusins openly admits to doing so. I think that Barbara’s biggest change is in her approach to religion. When she was thinking like an idealist she believed that simply saving someone would bring about the most effective change in his or her life. Now that Barbara is thinking realistically, she comes to basic understanding that there is a higher power than money, but money must come first. Her father proves this to her when he explains how Peter would be a Christian as long as he was receiving a paycheck. If the weekly check disappeared: he would probably turn back to his principles. This shows that it is easier to thank God when the income is good and steady. I believe that Barbara changed her perspective for similar reasons as I did. I changed my views because of being exposed to what really drives people to do certain things, like attending church. I have also seen the various advantages of having money. Barbara always saw one side of the coin at the shelter because she only worked with poor people. After she saw the town her father built, which was wealthy and beautiful, she how much more of a difference that money played in people’s lives. The shelter is a dreary and desolate place, but the town is vivacious, full of energy, and everybody seems happier
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