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The Representation of Children in the Plays of Bernard Shaw

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posted on 2016-11-14, 11:08 authored by Manal Ibraheem H. Fattah
This thesis explores the parent-child relationships in Shaw’s early and middle plays, with a special focus on the destructive and constructive role of parents and children in social and human evolution. It examines how Shaw uses these particular relationships and what they represent in light of his views on social progress, evolution, and education. Although children received a great deal of attention from Shaw, their representation in Shaw’s drama has not received much serious attention from scholars and critics. This thesis explores parents and children in eight of Shaw’s plays in terms of generational conflict: Mrs Warren’s Profession (1894), The Devil’s Disciple (1897), You Never Can Tell (1896), Man and Superman (1902), Major Barbara (1905), Pygmalion (1912), Misalliance (1910), and Fanny’s First Play (1911). The first two chapters demonstrate the constructive role of the child in social progress and human evolution and the destructive effect of the parent on the child’s progress. The third chapter explores the constructive role of the parent in the child’s education and development. The final chapter examines the parent-child relationships in Shaw in light of his views on the family as a social institution. Throughout my study, I refer to a variety of Shaw’s non-dramatic writings, such as his prefaces, letters, interviews, and criticism. As a result, this thesis draws the reader’s attention to the relation between Shaw’s dramatic and non-dramatic writings. My study reveals that there is a link between Shaw’s progressive views and his plays: both are meant to agitate and provoke the audience into thinking, questioning, and challenging. The conclusion is that Shaw used drama, in general, and the family, in particular, as a vehicle for his views. This is important in understanding Shaw’s plays, and it provides evidence of Shaw’s commitment to the socialist cause and the didactic purpose of art.



Marshall, Gail; North, Julian

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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    University of Leicester Theses