Referring Closely to Specific Instances in the Play 'Arms and the Man', Discuss How Shaw Presents Class Distinctions and Social Snobbery. - English (Literature in English)

Answer in Brief

Referring closely to specific instances in the play 'Arms and the Man', discuss how Shaw presents class distinctions and social snobbery. 



Throughout, Arms and the man  by George Bernard Shaw,slight variances are used in the speech of the characters to indicate class distinctions. It is clear that Shaw, a noted socialist, has a great deal of concern about class issues and instead of making the reader keenly aware of these notions throughout Arms and the Man via any direct mention, Shaw uses their dialogue as well as cues within the setting to reveal these elements. “Despite the prominence of debate and speechmaking in his plays, one sometimes forgets that before Shaw-the-playwright came Shaw-the-debater and public speaker. All were platform spellbinders". Part of the reason it is so easy to forget that there a number of encoded social messages within Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, is because is remarkably deft at conveying injustices and problems through characterization and language. Shaw’s writing style is thus very critical of the Victorian-era societyyet instead of doing this overtly, he relies on gestures, dialogue, and setting to set the stage for the debate. His “public speaking" would, in this sense be limited to the voices of his characters who come from variable class backgrounds and have a system of language that is suitable for their class. Only through this mode can George Bernard Shaw open a platform for class debates. Without being told the first thing about this character’s thoughts, it is clear that reader should be immediately attentive to class distinctions through outward appearances. It should also be noted that this setting is beautiful, but we are not expected to focus on the beauty in a traditional way, but rather to pay attention to the social statement—that there is a woman who obviously pays more for her clothes than the upkeep of her living quarters. In the mind of one critic, “The world, as he [George Bernard Shaw] looks out upon it, is a painful spectacle to his eyes. Pity and indignation move him. He is not sentimental, as some writers are, but the facts grind his soul… in a word, art has an end beyond itself; and the object of Shaw’s art in particular is to make men think, to make them uncomfortable, to convict them of sin''. As this essay makes clear, his is an especially succinct observation in this scene since there is opportunity for sentimentality and romanticism (since she is framed by a lovely setting) but this is not enough for George Bernard Shaw; he must shift the object of the reader’s gaze away from physical beauty to the darker world of class and character. This same shift in possibilities, from the potential sentimentality to the social critique, is apparent in terms of language as well as setting descriptions. The ultimate effect of this writing style is that the reader becomes implicated in-class debates (as well as other equally prominent debates about the nature of war as well) and is left with a moving story as well as something more to consider.

Concept: Writing Skills
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2017-2018 (March) English Set 2

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