Shaw’s Concept of Marriage in Man and Superman A Report Submitted to the Council of the College ofLanguage at Salahaddin University –Erbil By Danaz Abubaker Abdullah English Department Literature To Dr. Saman Salah Balaky Erbil, KURDISTAN December 2018Introduction Marriageis a theme that can be interpreted in different ways.
The definition ofmarriage is the pillar to the formation of different kinds of small communitiesknown as family. For this reason, the concept of marriage should be looked uponfondly otherwise it will be the cause of the fall of that family. So we can seethe tradition literally works about the theme of marriage. As it can beimagined, through history, there are different viewpoints towards marriage. Theplay is written in modernism because of its obvious characteristics in the play.That in modernism everything changed and it was like the breaking rules oftradition through the play Shaw effected by modernism and he gave the main roleto the woman in the concept of marriage. Section one in this study presents Shaw’sbiography and his style of writing regarding to the “Shaw’s concept of marriagein Man and Superman”. Section two introduces the origins of the play andthe reasons behind writing the play as well as the plot.
While section three isabout the two movements: realism and naturalism, which had a significantinfluence on the play. And the last section discusses Shaw’s view on theconcept of marriage in the play man and superman. 1. Shaw’s Biography and Style of Writing George Bernard Shaw, was born in Dublin,Ireland, in 1856 and he became one of the Britain’s greatest and mostcontroversial playwrights. The Irish dramatist was awarded with the Nobel Prizein (Literature 1925). In 1884 He joined Fabian Society, a socialist group whosupported working class, tried to gain the equal rights for men and women, cancelingprivate ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. Thesocialist Shaw was a man of many foundations such as, main changes in thevoting system, the simplification of spelling and the reform of the Englishalphabet (he created a new phonetic alphabet “Shavian Alphabet”). He alwaysportrayed his situations frankly and honestly, intending to shock the audiencewith a new view of society.
He suddenly found himself acclaimed as a ‘SecondShakespeare’ “I was always in the classic tradition,recognizing that stage character’s must be endowed by the author with aconscious self-knowledge …,a freedom from inhibitions, which in real life wouldmake them monsters of genius. It is the power to do this that differentiates me(or Shakespeare) from a gramophone and camera.” (Keach.et al) He went on to revolutionize the Englishtheater by concentrating his writing on various social issues.
Within hiswriting, Shaw clarifies the modern moral problems and presented them unexpectedly,depending on irony to display his opinion (Holroyd). Shaw’s writings were a Mixture of serioustopics and enjoyment. With combining philosophy and comedy he had built up alarge readership, especially in his 12th play Man and Superman thatsubtitled with A Comedy and Philosophy (Holroyd).
Discussing his practice as adramatist, he explained that the characters are more important than plot. As hesaid “When I am writing a play I never invent a plot”. The focus on charactersand those ideas which are present in his plays separated him from most Englishdramatists at the end of nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentiethcentury. (Keach.et al) Through Man and superman Shaw uses satirebut in a humor way to attract more readers and also to show the social problemsduring the period. Because only comedy is not too much attractive and thereader will not be aware of the problems which are hidden with this comedy.However, philosophy is not a good subject to attract the readers because of its complexity so he tries to mix thesetwo topics to deliver a special play.
Shaw invented new and revolutionary viewsabout the concept of woman and marriage. 2. The Background of Man andSuperman Manand superman is a comedy and philosophical drama which is written by GeorgeBernard Shaw in 1903. The play is four-act drama and it was written in responseto (Bingham Walkley) who asked Shaw to write a play based on the themeof Don Juan.
So Shaw at the beginning part of the play writes (Epistle Dedicatoryto author Bingham Walkley). Shaw regarded dramas in general to be something much deeper inmeaning, which is very obvious from the title which comes from FriedrichNietzsche’s philosophical ideas about the” Superman”. It is a powerful drama ofideas; Shaw explores the role of the artist, the function of women in society,and his theory of Creative Evolution. ‘which Weintraub, in new introduction ofhis book states, this is “the first great twentieth-century English play”and remains a classic expose of the eternal struggle between the sexes.
‘ (2000) Accordingto Lewis, the play has been written in the form of dream which was inspired by Mozart’s Don Giovanni that four characters from comedy transferredto philosophy and there’s a debate about nature of marriage in the third act.The importance of the play that makes it unusual is the Act III (where thedream appeared) and it was performed separately as one-act under the title ofDon Juan in Hell. Theplot of Man and Superman is about a Shavian love. Which is about a pairthat the woman (Ann) who wants to marry a man( Tanner), despite his reputationas a revolutionist (Shaw published the “revolutionist’s handbook” presumably itwas written by Tanner in the printed version of the play). Even though Tannerwas a superman status in the play but in the end Tanner accepts to get marriedwith Ann because of his submission to the “Life Force”. (2007) 3.
Realism and naturalism in the play Theplay has been written in modernism, the term modernism is broadly used to categorizenew and unique features in the topics, forms, concepts, and style of literatureand the other arts during the nineteenth century (Abrams,2005) A fact thatnineteenth century, is a period almost too fertile in movements and schools (Cuddon,2013) As far as modernism in literature isconsidered as a breaking rules of tradition and also it is a reaction againstVictorian age and romanticism. The most influential terms that appeared inmodernism are Realism and Naturalism. Realism,The recognizable and conscious movement in literature.
Basically, Realism in literatureis the portrayal of life with truthfulness. Realism rejects classism ,romanticism and the doctrine of art for art’s sake. The movement started in themid-nineteenth century in France (Cuddon,2013)Realism represents the life as it really is, for example in drama; thecharacters in the play are shown in a realistic picture and also evoking thesense that they are exist in fact, The subject matters are always related to theproblems in social world, The Language and the places are important elementsbecause the language is an everyday speech and the place is mostly common place.Man and Superman can strongly referred as a realistic play in a resultof that Shaw himself said that he wrote “a trumpery story of modern Londonlife, a life in which . . . the ordinary man’s main business is to get means tokeep up the position and habit of a gentleman and the ordinary woman’s businessis to get married.” (Lowers,1982) Naturalism, the scientific movement beganin the mid-nineteenth century which was based on the theories of Darwin.
It isa method of literature that was developed by a school of writers in accordancewith a specific philosophical theory. Naturalists believed that the nature isthe source of everything and controls human beings. The two significantprinciples of naturalism are; heredity and environment, the first one isinheriting compulsive instincts from parents but, the second one is about theenvironment and the situation that the person born with the social and economicforces. Sometimes Naturalism gives an even more accurate description of lifethan realism. (Abrams,2005) Regards to man and superman naturalism hasan important effect on the play because of the “Life Force” that obliges Tannerto accept the marriage although Tanner was against marriage. 4. The concept of marriage Sincethe nineteenth century, the concept of marriage no longer concludes a storyeither happily or tragically. As specified by Johnson “It(marriage) may be an institution to be analyzed, questioned, perhaps redefined,and an idea that has deep social as well as symbolic implications”(1975:38).
Johnson’s idea was like a base forthe concept of investigating Shaw’s view about the concept of marriage in theplay man and superman. Shaw has made his best to develop his idea aboutmarriage in different plays especially though one of his famous and powerfulplay, man and superman which is a four-act play that is written in 1903.(Besharati, Anosheh, 2017) Certainly, Shaw has written the play as a reaction against Victoriansociety which was too excited for sex desires but they were too scared to evenutter the word (sex). “At that time (Victorian period), the averagemiddle-class English man was a sort of prurient Puritan, too timid even topronounce the word sex, yet entranced by the topic (Carpenter, 1975: 70)”.Shaw attempted to bring the idea into the play by writing a play in which sexis cautiously kept off stage while it was the motive behind of all the actions.
This aim is completely fulfilled in man and superman therefore JohnTanner is a model of Don Juan in the play and acts as a mouthpiece of Shaw. Throughpreceding the play Tanner’s dialogue about the concept of marriage with Annshows that Tanner is the mouthpiece of Shaw, himself in man and superman(Besharati, Anosheh, 2017). “Let us face the facts dear Ana, the Lifeforce respects marriage only because marriage is a contrivance of its own tosecure – The greatest number of children and the closest care of them. Forhonor, chastity and all the rest of your moral figments if cares not rap.Marriage is the most licentious of human institutions” (Shaw, 1962: 156). Shaw’s belief about the concept of marriage is expressed through JohnTanner in act 1-2 and 4 but in the 3rd act which is mostlyrecognized as Shaw’s mouthpiece that is expressed through philosophical DonJuan. Shaw was not against the indication of marriage but he was against itscurrent laws.
The importance of marriage in Shaw’s view is the continuation andthe progressing of the human race. As it’s seen in the play man andsuperman, the plot of the play is about Ann Whitefield and John Tanner asAnn attempted to provide the father for a superman. According to the play Shawexplains that the woman is always seeking for a man who would demonstrate to bea good husband by giving her children. The main reason behind the marriage in manand superman is life force which obliges her to get married and bring asuperior mankind into the world. It is obvious through Tanner’s speech in actII; (Besharati, Anosheh, 2017).
“It is a woman’s business to getmarried as soon as possible, and a man’s to keep unmarried as long as he can.” (shaw,1903) “Marriage remains practically inevitableand the sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we shall set to work to make itdecent and reasonable” (Shaw, 1962: 454). With the play Shaw analyses the marriage with its differentperspectives, beside the idea of marriage, he discussed sexuality, the role andfreedom of woman. Also Shaw tried to show the concept of marriage as a usefuland healthy process, it is necessary especially for woman to choose the matefor giving the birth of superman so the woman in the play regarded as the hunter.In the 3rd act of the play there is a speech by Don Juan to Ana inthe Hell-scene which declares woman’s wish to the evolution process; (Besharati,Anosheh, 2017) “Sexually, woman is nature’s contrivance forperpetuating its highest achievement. Sexually Man is Woman’s contrivance for fulfilling nature’s behest in the most economical way, she knows by instinctthat for back in the evolutional process she invented him, differentiated him,created him in order to produce something better than the single sexed processcan produce (Shaw, 1962, 147). In the role of woman, Man andsuperman was regarded as a new type of drama which presented a new form ofwomen in the society. Shaw had another definition of women in his plays asconfident and self-controllable which was uncommon in that time and theydecided to reach whatever they wanted.
Shaw attempted to show women in arealistic way with having some heroic qualities. (Besharati, Anosheh, 2017) Shaw indicated if it possible to avoid life force, then marriage shouldbe sacrificed “‘if marriage cannot be made to produce something better than weare, marriage will have to go, or else the nation will have to go”. It isthe life force that obliges woman to better the race by giving birth tosuperman.
Life force expresses itself through sex so it is life force thatthrows the two different pairs in to one fate which is called “marriage”. The theme of life force is most importantlydiscussed in the play, such as Don Juan expresses the importance of it:”In the sex relation the universalcreative energy, of which the parties are both the helpless agents, our ridesand sweeps away all personal consideration, and dispenses with all personalconsideration, and dispenses with all personal relations. The pair may be utterstrangers to one another, speaking different languages, differing in race andcolor, in age, and disposition, with no bond between them but a possibility ofthat fecundity for the sake of which the Life Force throws them into oneanother’s arms at the exchange of a glance” (Besharati, Anosheh, 2017) As well as there are two opposite kinds of marriage in the play Manand superman, the first one is the marriage of Ann Whitefield and JohnTanner, the second one Violet Robinson and Hector Malone.
The first marriage is not because of love between the pair but ithappened under the force of “Life Force”. It’s about an unstoppable woman thatwanted to hunt a man to be the father of superman which was really rare in thattime for the society. Through this situation Shaw attempted to introduce a newkind of woman to the community with the concept of marriage. Through this playShaw wanted to reveal the real reasons behind getting married. The second type of marriage is between Violet Robinson and Hector Malonewhich happened through love despite the fact that there was a rejection ofdifferent classes but they still insisted on getting married to each other dueto the presence of love. Although Shaw wanted to introduce a new type of womanto the society, I think that Shaw, through the second type of marriage wantedto show the audience that true love always exists.
But this kind of marriagehas always existed in the tradition forms of drama. Conclusion Shaw was the dramatist of man and superman. Through his play,Shaw represents the role of the woman as the hunter to capture the father ofthe superman as it’s clear in act II of the play that Ana says ” A father forsuperman” (Shaw, 1962; 155). In this drama Shaw tried to express women as the only gateway to givebirth to superman, that is why he gave the role of the hunter to a woman tofind the other mate so we can say that this kind of woman is not ordinary kindof woman. While superman is seen as an evolution process for man.
We can alsosay that Ann was a superwoman because she never gave up on trying to find theright mate for father of superman until she persuaded Tanner to marry her. It’sa unique play because the role of the woman was more superior than the role ofthe man as Shaw gave the role of the hunter to a woman in the concept ofmarriage. As a student of master’s degree, I think that all these great rolesgiven to the women in the play relates back to his viewpoint as a member ofFabian Socialist, he supported the idea of equal rights between men and womenso he gave the role of the hunter to the woman. References · Abrams, M.H (2005) A Glossary of Literary Terms. 8thed. Australia.
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