List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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a pram and a nussmaid to wheel you in it as that car and me if
you don't git the last inch out of us both.

TANNER. [soothingly] All right, Henry, all right. We'll go out
for half an hour presently.

STRAKER. [in disgust] Arf an ahr! [He returns to his machine;
seats himself in it; and turns up a fresh page of his paper in
search of more news].

OCTAVIUS. Oh, that reminds me. I have a note for you from
Rhoda. [He gives Tanner a note].

TANNER. [opening it] I rather think Rhoda is heading for a row
with Ann. As a rule there is only one person an English girl
hates more than she hates her mother; and that's her eldest
sister. But Rhoda positively prefers her mother to Ann. She--
[indignantly] Oh, I say!

OCTAVIUS. What's the matter?

TANNER. Rhoda was to have come with me for a ride in the motor
car. She says Ann has forbidden her to go out with me.

Straker suddenly begins whistling his favorite air with
remarkable deliberation. Surprised by this burst of larklike
melody, and jarred by a sardonic note in its cheerfulness, they
turn and look inquiringly at him. But he is busy with his paper;
and nothing comes of their movement.

OCTAVIUS. [recovering himself] Does she give any reason?

TANNER. Reason! An insult is not a reason. Ann forbids her to be
alone with me on any occasion. Says I am not a fit person for a
young girl to be with. What do you think of your paragon now?

OCTAVIUS. You must remember that she has a very heavy
responsibility now that her father is dead. Mrs Whitefield is
too weak to control Rhoda.

TANNER. [staring at him] In short, you agree with Ann.

OCTAVIUS. No; but I think I understand her. You must admit that
your views are hardly suited for the formation of a young girl's
mind and character.

TANNER. I admit nothing of the sort. I admit that the formation
of a young lady's mind and character usually consists in telling
her lies; but I object to the particular lie that I am in the
habit of abusing the confidence of girls.

OCTAVIUS. Ann doesn't say that, Jack.

TANNER. What else does she mean?

STRAKER. [catching sight of Ann coming from the house] Miss
Whitefield, gentlemen. [He dismounts and strolls away down the
avenue with the air of a man who knows he is no longer wanted].

ANN. [coming between Octavius and Tanner]. Good morning, Jack. I
have come to tell you that poor Rhoda has got one of her
headaches and cannot go out with you to-day in the car. It is a
cruel disappointment to her, poor child!

TANNER. What do you say now, Tavy,

OCTAVIUS. Surely you cannot misunderstand, Jack. Ann is showing
you the kindest consideration, even at the cost of deceiving you.

ANN. What do you mean?

TANNER. Would you like to cure Rhoda's headache, Ann?

ANN. Of course.

TANNER. Then tell her what you said just now; and add that you
arrived about two minutes after I had received her letter and
read it.

ANN. Rhoda has written to you!

TANNER. With full particulars.

OCTAVIUS. Never mind him, Ann. You were right, quite right. Ann
was only doing her duty, Jack; and you know it. Doing it in the
kindest way, too.

ANN. [going to Octavius] How kind you are, Tavy! How helpful!
How well you understand!

Octavius beams.

TANNER. Ay: tighten the coils. You love her, Tavy, don't you?

OCTAVIUS. She knows I do.

ANN. Hush. For shame, Tavy!

TANNER. Oh, I give you leave. I am your guardian; and I commit
you to Tavy's care for the next hour.

ANN. No, Jack. I must speak to you about Rhoda. Ricky: will you
go back to the house and entertain your American friend? He's
rather on Mamma's hands so early in the morning. She wants to
finish her housekeeping.

OCTAVIUS. I fly, dearest Ann [he kisses her hand].

ANN. [tenderly] Ricky Ticky Tavy!

He looks at her with an eloquent blush, and runs off.

TANNER. [bluntly] Now look here, Ann. This time you've landed
yourself; and if Tavy were not in love with you past all
salvation he'd have found out what an incorrigible liar you are.

ANN. You misunderstand, Jack. I didn't dare tell Tavy the truth.

TANNER. No: your daring is generally in the opposite direction.
What the devil do you mean by telling Rhoda that I am too vicious
to associate with her? How can I ever have any human or decent
relations with her again, now that you have poisoned her mind in
that abominable way?

ANN. I know you are incapable of behaving badly.

TANNER. Then why did you lie to her?

ANN. I had to.

TANNER. Had to!

ANN. Mother made me.

TANNER. [his eye flashing] Ha! I might have known it. The mother!
Always the mother!

ANN. It was that dreadful book of yours. You know how timid
mother is. All timid women are conventional: we must be
conventional, Jack, or we are so cruelly, so vilely misunderstood.
Even you, who are a man, cannot say what you think without being
misunderstood and vilified--yes: I admit it: I have had to vilify
you. Do you want to have poor Rhoda misunderstood and vilified to
the same way? Would it be right for mother to let her expose
herself to such treatment before she is old enough to judge for

TANNER. In short, the way to avoid misunderstanding is for
everybody to lie and slander and insinuate and pretend as hard as
they can. That is what obeying your mother comes to.

ANN. I love my mother, Jack.

TANNER. [working himself up into a sociological rage] Is that any
reason why you are not to call your soul your own? Oh, I protest
against this vile abjection of youth to age! look at fashionable
society as you know it. What does it pretend to be? An exquisite
dance of nymphs. What is it? A horrible procession of wretched
girls, each in the claws of a cynical, cunning, avaricious,
disillusioned, ignorantly experienced, foul-minded old woman whom
she calls mother, and whose duty it is to corrupt her mind and
sell her to the highest bidder. Why do these unhappy slaves marry
anybody, however old and vile, sooner than not marry at all?
Because marriage is their only means of escape from these
decrepit fiends who hide their selfish ambitions, their jealous
hatreds of the young rivals who have supplanted them, under the
mask of maternal duty and family affection. Such things are
abominable: the voice of nature proclaims for the daughter a
father's care and for the son a mother's. The law for father and
son and mother and daughter is not the law of love: it is the
law of revolution, of emancipation, of final supersession of the
old and worn-out by the young and capable. I tell you, the first
duty of manhood and womanhood is a Declaration of Independence:
the man who pleads his father's authority is no man: the woman
who pleads her mother's authority is unfit to bear citizens to a
free people.

ANN. [watching him with quiet curiosity] I suppose you will go in
seriously for politics some day, Jack.

TANNER. [heavily let down] Eh? What? Wh--? [Collecting his
scattered wits] What has that got to do with what I have been

ANN. You talk so well.

TANNER. Talk! Talk! It means nothing to you but talk. Well, go
back to your mother, and help her to poison Rhoda's imagination
as she has poisoned yours. It is the tame elephants who enjoy
capturing the wild ones.

ANN. I am getting on. Yesterday I was a boa constrictor: to-day I
am an elephant.

TANNER. Yes. So pack your trunk and begone; I have no more to say
to you.

ANN. You are so utterly unreasonable and impracticable. What can
I do?

TANNER. Do! Break your chains. Go your way according to your own
conscience and not according to your mother's. Get your mind
clean and vigorous; and learn to enjoy a fast ride in a motor car
instead of seeing nothing in it but an excuse for a detestable
intrigue. Come with me to Marseilles and across to Algiers and to
Biskra, at sixty miles an hour. Come right down to the Cape if
you like. That will be a Declaration of Independence with a
vengeance. You can write a book about it afterwards. That will
finish your mother and make a woman of you.

ANN. [thoughtfully] I don't think there would be any harm in
that, Jack. You are my guardian: you stand in my father's place,
by his own wish. Nobody could say a word against our travelling
together. It would be delightful: thank you a thousand times,
Jack. I'll come.

TANNER. [aghast] You'll come!!!

ANN. Of course.

TANNER. But-- [he stops, utterly appalled; then resumes feebly]
No: look here, Ann: if there's no harm in it there's no point in
doing it.

ANN. How absurd you are! You don't want to compromise me, do you?

TANNER. Yes: that's the whole sense of my proposal.

ANN. You are talking the greatest nonsense; and you know it. You
would never do anything to hurt me.

TANNER. Well, if you don't want to be compromised, don't come.

ANN. [with simple earnestness] Yes, I will come, Jack, since you
wish it. You are my guardian; and think we ought to see more of
one another and come to know one another better. [Gratefully]
It's very thoughtful and very kind of you, Jack, to offer me this
lovely holiday, especially after what I said about Rhoda. You
really are good--much better than you think. When do we start?


The conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mrs Whitefield
from the house. She is accompanied by the American gentleman, and
followed by Ramsden and Octavius.

Hector Malone is an Eastern American; but he is not at all
ashamed of his nationality. This makes English people of fashion
think well of him, as of a young fellow who is manly enough to
confess to an obvious disadvantage without any attempt to conceal
or extenuate it. They feel that he ought not to be made to suffer
for what is clearly not his fault, and make a point of being
specially kind to him. His chivalrous manners to women, and his
elevated moral sentiments, being both gratuitous and unusual,
strike them as being a little unfortunate; and though they find
his vein of easy humor rather amusing when it has ceased to
puzzle them (as it does at first), they have had to make him
understand that he really must not tell anecdotes unless they
are strictly personal and scandalous, and also that oratory is an
accomplishment which belongs to a cruder stage of civilization
than that in which his migration has landed him. On these points
Hector is not quite convinced: he still thinks that the British
are apt to make merits of their stupidities, and to represent
their various incapacities as points of good breeding. English
life seems to him to suffer from a lack of edifying rhetoric
(which he calls moral tone); English behavior to show a want of
respect for womanhood; English pronunciation to fail very
vulgarly in tackling such words as world, girl, bird, etc.;
English society to be plain spoken to an extent which stretches
occasionally to intolerable coarseness; and English intercourse
to need enlivening by games and stories and other pastimes; so he
does not feel called upon to acquire these defects after taking
great paths to cultivate himself in a first rate manner before
venturing across the Atlantic. To this culture he finds English
people either totally indifferent as they very commonly are to
all culture, or else politely evasive, the truth being that
Hector's culture is nothing but a state of saturation with our
literary exports of thirty years ago, reimported by him to be
unpacked at a moment's notice and hurled at the head of English
literature, science and art, at every conversational opportunity.
The dismay set up by these sallies encourages him in his belief
that he is helping to educate England. When he finds people
chattering harmlessly about Anatole France and Nietzsche, he
devastates them with Matthew Arnold, the Autocrat of the
Breakfast Table, and even Macaulay; and as he is devoutly
religious at bottom, he first leads the unwary, by humorous
irreverences, to wave popular theology out of account in
discussing moral questions with him, and then scatters them in
confusion by demanding whether the carrying out of his ideals of
conduct was not the manifest object of God Almighty in creating
honest men and pure women. The engaging freshness of his
personality and the dumbfoundering staleness of his culture make
it extremely difficult to decide whether he is worth knowing; for
whilst his company is undeniably pleasant and enlivening, there
is intellectually nothing new to be got out of him, especially as
he despises politics, and is careful not to talk commercial shop,
in which department he is probably much in advance of his English
capitalist friends. He gets on best with romantic Christians of
the amoristic sect: hence the friendship which has sprung up
between him and Octavius.

In appearance Hector is a neatly built young man of twenty-four,
with a short, smartly trimmed black beard, clear, well shaped
eyes, and an ingratiating vivacity of expression. He is, from the
fashionable point of view, faultlessly dressed. As he comes along
the drive from the house with Mrs Whitefield he is sedulously
making himself agreeable and entertaining, and thereby placing on
her slender wit a burden it is unable to bear. An Englishman
would let her alone, accepting boredom and indifference of their
common lot; and the poor lady wants to be either let alone or let
prattle about the things that interest her.

Ramsden strolls over to inspect the motor car. Octavius joins

ANN. [pouncing on her mother joyously] Oh, mamma, what do you
think! Jack is going to take me to Nice in his motor car. Isn't
it lovely? I am the happiest person in London.

TANNER. [desperately] Mrs Whitefield objects. I am sure she
objects. Doesn't she, Ramsden?

RAMSDEN. I should think it very likely indeed.

ANN. You don't object, do you, mother?

MRS WHITEFIELD. I object! Why should I? I think it will do you
good, Ann. [Trotting over to Tanner] I meant to ask you to take
Rhoda out for a run occasionally: she is too much in the house;
but it will do when you come back.

TANNER. Abyss beneath abyss of perfidy!

ANN. [hastily, to distract attention from this outburst] Oh, I
forgot: you have not met Mr Malone. Mr Tanner, my guardian: Mr
Hector Malone.

HECTOR. Pleased to meet you, Mr Tanner. I should like to suggest
an extension of the travelling party to Nice, if I may.

ANN. Oh, we're all coming. That's understood, isn't it?

HECTOR. I also am the modest possessor of a motor car. If Miss
Robinson will allow me the privilege of taking her, my car is at
her service.


General constraint.

ANN. [subduedly] Come, mother: we must leave them to talk over
the arrangements. I must see to my travelling kit.

Mrs Whitefield looks bewildered; but Ann draws her discreetly
away; and they disappear round the corner towards the house.

HECTOR. I think I may go so far as to say that I can depend on
Miss Robinson's consent.

Continued embarrassment.

OCTAVIUS. I'm afraid we must leave Violet behind, There are
circumstances which make it impossible for her to come on such an

HECTOR. [amused and not at all convinced] Too American, eh? Must
the young lady have a chaperone?

OCTAVIUS. It's not that, Malone--at least not altogether.

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