George Bernard Shaw by Olivia Coolidge

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George Bernard Shaw Analysis

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The life of Shaw is a useful model for young adults because it embodies the power of persistence. An indifferent student in school, Shaw was a thoroughly self-educated young man, a voracious reader who also spent hours in Dublin galleries and museums and pursued his interest in music by memorizing whole operas. Yet success did not come easily to Shaw. His first nine years in London represented one of the slowest and most failure-ridden entrances to fame in literary history. During that period, from the ages of twenty-three to twenty-seven, Shaw was determined that he would win his fame as a novelist and doggedly wrote five pages a day, seven days a week, finishing his first novel within a year and ultimately writing five, all terrible and all rejected repeatedly by London publishers.

Another example of Shaw’s persistence and determination lies in his career as a public speaker. Later in life, Shaw won considerable fame and fortune with his spellbinding skills, but in his initial attempts at public speaking, he was a terrified and dismal failure. He overcame this ineptitude by simply forcing himself to speak in front of crowds whenever and wherever he could.

Yet perhaps the most striking example of this character trait lies in Shaw’s reading of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital , a book that served as the foundation of his lifelong passion for socialism. The members of the Democratic Federation, a socialist discussion group in London, challenged the young Shaw’s qualifications for debate because he had not read Marx’s book. The only copy available to Shaw was in French, a language in which he had little training, but Shaw spent weeks in the British Museum library deciphering the book until he finished it and was confident to return to the group. Without the least romanticizing, Coolidge very subtly emphasizes this quality of persistence and makes it a very quiet, underlying theme in her book, a theme...

(The entire section is 485 words.)