A Discussion Of Freedom By Shaw

2093 words - 8 pages

FREEDOM

George Bernard Shaw

"My conscience is the genuine pulpit article, it annoys me to see people comfortable when they ought to be uncomfortable; and I insist on making them think in order to bring them to a conviction of sin." -----Shaw.

The above quoted lines show us the uncompromising character of the man who never thought idealistically about literature, that is to say, one who never romanticized it. He considered all literature to be journalistic and his purpose was to convert the nation to his opinions. He did this in two ways: by writing plays which made people laugh up to a certain point till they realized that they were laughing at themselves, and by chastising their self -complacency with his essays and lectures. It is difficult to say whether his rather opinionated and propagandist attitude contributed much to the enrichment of his plays, for he could never reach the true heights of tragedy. Even in St. Joan, where he could do it, we find the same detached and cynical observer in the last scene, with his relentlessly attacking speeches and sharp intellect which were often confronted by adverse criticism. Yeats stated that the very face of Shaw reminded him of a sewing machine. Nevertheless, Shaw is, till date, one of the rare species of honest persons whose work came out of their firm conviction and unflinching sense of values.

Shaw was indoctrinated into socialism quite early in his life due to his contact with Sidney and Beatrice Webb and William Morris, and his reading of Marx, who, he said, "made a man of me." He was also influenced by the writings of Henry George and he brought a courageous, clear mind to the study of social problems. Like his predecessor Samuel Butler, Shaw tore off veils and laid bare the illusions of complacently blind people. In 1884, he became a founder member of Fabian Society. He called himself "a social reformer and doctrinaire first, last, and all the time." From his early plays he attacked social ills and middle-class indifference to them by turning to the theatre. Widower's Houses (1892) and Mrs. Warren's Profession (1893) dealt with slum landlordism and prostitution respectively - and for the boldness of his attack the latter was banned from the English stage for some years. But that prohibition did not deter him from writing other plays challenging many long- cherished ideas.

Michael Thorpe tells us that "From about 1880 to 1933, when he turned to the far reaching microphone, he was the most formidable and influential platform debater in England." The essay, Freedom, originally a BBC radio talk delivered 18th June, 1935, shows us the person who no more hides behind the mask of a stage protagonist, but lashes out at listeners with extreme energy and provocativeness.

In the beginning of his essay Shaw asks a fundamental question--"what is a perfectly free person?" then he goes on to show the two types of freedom - freedom in a broad sense and...

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