Sir Andrew Undershaft
Sir Andrew Undershaft, a munitions tycoon. Believing that poverty is the root of all discontent and, consequently, a threat to capitalism, he uses his power and wealth in an attempt to eliminate it. In a war of ideas with his daughter Barbara, he proves that a donation from a dealer in death—namely, himself—will buy the good graces of the Salvation Army. He then proceeds to fill the void created by her disillusionment by converting her to his own creed.
Barbara, Sir Andrew’s daughter. As a major in the Salvation Army, she exercises her moral fervor in the cause of winning the souls of the poor to the kingdom of God. When her father proves to her that a donation from his deplored and destructive profession can win the favor of the Army, she becomes converted to his creed that it is useless to attempt the salvation of souls until the souls’ destroyer, poverty, has been eliminated.
Adolphus Cusins, a professor of Greek, Barbara’s suitor. His intellect, added to Sir Andrew’s power and Barbara’s moral fervor, completes the trinity that Sir Andrew believes will be the salvation of society.
Lady Britomart Undershaft
Lady Britomart Undershaft, Sir Andrew’s domineering wife, who abhors what she calls her husband’s immorality, though she does not hesitate to capitalize on it.
Stephen Undershaft, Sir Andrew’s painfully conventional son.
Sarah Undershaft, Sir Andrew’s younger daughter.
Charles Lomax, Sarah Undershaft’s vacuous suitor.
Peter Shirley, and
Bill Walker, frequenters of the Salvation Army headquarters.
Mrs. Baines, a Salvation Army Commissioner, accepts the Undershaft money that Barbara has
See Adolphus Cusins
Jenny is a sincere Salvationist who takes Mitchens and Price's insincere religious posturings at face value. When Walker strikes her, her unending forgiveness and compassion cause him to feel tremendous guilt.
Charles is engaged to Sarah. He is a flighty young man whose lack of intelligence and inappropriate comments make him a source of humor in the play.
See Barbara Undershaft
Mitchens is seen at the Salvation Army shelter. Worn down by poverty, she appears to be elderly but is probably middle-aged. She appreciates the kindness of the Salvation Army workers but knows that to make them happy, she must confess a multitude of sins. When Walker strikes her, she repays him with anger and threats, in contrast to Jenny Hill, who treats the brute with kindness and forgiveness.
See Charles Lomax
Cusins is engaged to Barbara. Shaw describes him as "capable possibly of murder, but not of cruelty or coarseness." A professor of Greek, he pretends to be a Salvationist because of his love for Barbara, though he tells Andrew Undershaft that he has a genuine interest in religion. He shares some of Barbara's idealism and is revolted by Undershaft's cynical religion of money and gunpowder; in fact, he frequently calls Undershaft the devil or Mephistopheles. Yet he is also persuaded to some extent by Undershaft's arguments and agrees to succeed Undershaft in his armaments business. Nonetheless, he brings some of his own idealism to that business, initially telling Undershaft that he will sell arms only to whom he wishes, while Undershaft insists he sell to everyone. Finally, citing his own socially acceptable but morally questionable acts, he agrees to accept Undershaft's offer, but leaves the audience with the impression that he and Barbara will try to do good through a business based on evil.
Price is an unemployed workman who admits to confessing sins he never committed in order to please the Salvationists. He shows two faces to the audience: the cynicism he displays with Mitchens and the exaggerated religious demeanor he puts on in front of Barbara and Jenny.
(The entire section is 1,383 words.)