Man and Superman expounds Shaw’s pointed view of humanity’s sexual nature. In this play, Ann Whitefield woos her newly appointed guardian, John Tanner, and he, in spite of his anti-romantic persona, falls for her. He does not love her in the conventional sense, but falls prey to the ‘‘Life Force’’ that she exudes. It is more a matter of sexual attraction than it is of romanic love. Shaw’s idea of this Life Force derives from French philosopher Henri Bergson’s Olan vital, or spirit of life.
Bergson’s concept proposed that intellect was an advanced form of instinct, and that intellect and instinct together constituted the source of vitality shared between all creatures and God. Social niceties, such as the conventions of marriage and courting, merely mask the underlying drive toward life and procreation. The Life Force is the creative urge toward self-preservation and regeneration, the drive to evolve, adapt, and actualize. Bergson’s philosophy parallels French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck’s biological concept of the organism’s tendency to adapt to environment, to survive through self-transformation. Lamarck predated Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which Shaw opposes by going back to the idea of Lamarckian determinism in the form of an unconscious will towards life.
Shaw draws on both philosophy and biological theory for his Life Force theory, which became a common theme in his...
(The entire section is 1205 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Man and Superman Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!