Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 548
An honest man feels that he must pay Heaven for every hour of happiness with a good spell of hard, unselfish work to make others happy. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.
In this quote early in the play, the Christian Socialist minister James Morell (whom Shaw describes as a “great baby”) is praising his wife to his curate, Lexy. Candida gives Morell great happiness, so he must work diligently to share this happiness with others. While this quote demonstrates that Morell’s honorable intention to pay forward the joy he receives, there is more truth in the idea that Candida provides happiness for him than he realizes: he is unaware that he is weak and spoiled and that Candida stays with him in order to take care of him. As she reveals at the end, Candida has enabled all of Morell’s success through her support and care.
You have been annoying him. Now I won’t have it, Eugene: do you hear? . . . My boy shall not be worried: I will protect him.
While the true nature of Candida’s provision for Morell—that it is only because of her that he is as successful as he is—is not revealed until the very end, Shaw provides glimpses of it at various points throughout the play. This quote is from one such instance: Candida has walked in on an argument between Morell and Marchbanks, and upon observing that Morell is distressed, she rushes to him, scolds Marchbanks, and defends Morell. Morell is taken aback by her vow to “protect” him, for he still views himself as Candida’s protector. It is interesting to note Candida’s use of the endearment “my boy” for her husband: she addresses Morell with the same words that Morell uses to address Lexy. When Morell uses these words for Lexy, it is in a fatherly tone. Candida, likewise, assumes a motherly tone when she addresses Morell in this way, revealing the fact that she takes care of him far more than he realizes.
I have nothing to offer you but my strength for your defence, my honesty of purpose for your surety, my ability and industry for your livelihood, and my authority and position for your dignity. That is all it becomes a man to offer to a woman.
In their bids for Candida’s love, Marchbanks and Morell’s offers are exact opposites. Morell, as this quote demonstrates, believes that the way to win Candida’s heart is to offer to provide for her. In his mind, provision is also “all it becomes a man to offer a woman”: this exemplifies Morell’s traditional view that the man is the provider for his household. Marchbanks, on the contrary, offers his “weakness,” “desolation,” and “heart’s need,” which Candida remarks is a “good bid.” Contradicting traditional gender roles, Candida ultimately chooses Morell: he needs her provision, for he is “the weaker of the two [men].” Candida makes her choice not because of what these men can provide her but because of what she can provide them. Morell realizes that while he had previously believed himself to be providing for Candida, she has been providing for him all along.