Images Of Women
Images of Women: Major Barbara, A Passage to India, and the poetry of T.S. Eliot

The Victorian Era was a difficult and confusing time for women, and their trials
are reflected in the literature of the time. Although the three pieces of
literature being discussed are not entirely about women, they shed light on the

Victorian ideal of women and the ideals of the authors who created these women
characters. In contrasting and comparing women in Major Barbara, A Passage to

India, and T.S. Eliotís poetry, two key points will be discussed: distinct
archetypes of women, and how the "absence" of women is used to signify their
importance. There are four different archetypes of women present in the three
works [1], the first being the heroines. The heroines are characterized by their
success in dealing with the limitations of spiritual and physical matters,
eventually accepting these limitations or reconciling their differences into
their lives. Mrs. Moore is the heroine of A Passage to India. She is depicted as
a heroine because of a small event that does not concern her personally. She
comes to India just to further the happiness of her children, and due to the
circumstances, sacrifices the integrity of her own self. She is at first very
compassionate, with a love that extends over all creation, religion, and every
living thing. (Shahane 29) She lives in a world where everything is in harmony,
until her perfect vision is shattered by her experience in the Marabar Caves.

After she enters the cave, Mrs. Moore hears an echo, which seems to whisper,

"Everything exists, nothing has value." [2] Collier 2 This seems to rob Mrs.

Moore of everything she holds valuable; her spiritual life and her relationships
with family and friends. (Shahane 87) Everything has lost its meaning. Mrs.

Moore finally sees all the troubles in the world, and how insignificant the
world is. Despite her negative outlook after the Marabar Caves incident, Mrs.

Moore accepts these realizations into her life. She breaks off relationships
with her family and friends because she can no longer pretend that these
relationships can exist with no meaning. She concerns herself with only trivial
things, such as playing cards. In Major Barbara, the heroine is Major Barbara
herself. She has more typical characteristics of a heroine than does Mrs. Moore.

Shaw presents Barbara to us as a strong-willed, compassionate young girl. She is
unashamed of her salvation and willingly spreads its message. Similarly, her
father Undershaft is unashamed of his work in war and death. When Undershaft
arrives in England, Barbara is unwillingly drawn into his ammunitions business
affairs. She objects to this type of business, but through their sharing of
ideas, her values and morals are thrown into question. She realizes that all
religions glorify death and passivity and denial of the self. She begins to
believe that Undershaftís "religion" and hers are no different. Based on
this new belief, she chooses to leave the Salvation Army and to stay with Cusins
working in her fatherís business. The second archetype of women is the
socialite group. This is the group most criticized by their creators. These
women have lives with no real meaning. They are devoted entirely to their
outside activities, and cannot think apart from the rules of the society to
which they belong. They will not hesitate to criticize the women who do not
adhere to societyís strict rules. Mrs. Turton in A Passage to India belongs to
this Collier 3 archetype of women. She is a cruel, selfish woman because of
absorption in herself and in the Anglo-Indian society. She even tries to
convince Mrs. Moore and Adela of her ideas about Indians: "Youíre superior
to them, donít forget that." [3] Lady Britomart is the socialite of Major

Barbara. Her socialite manner begins in the home, and extends outward. She
orders her children more than she mothers them. She is only concerned with
family affairs if money is involved. She is enraged that Undershaft will not
change his traditions of successorship to include her son Steven, and even more
enraged at the immoral ideas that Undershaft shares with his children. The
criticism brought upon these types of women by their author-creators seems to
indicate the rules and standards of society mean nothing. It is the inside lives
of men and women that make them heroines or heroes. These women have no
initiative to change, and would be shunned from their societies if they were to
do so. The idealistic archetype describes the women who pursue something ideal
which they have little