bursting strain

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vil

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Dear teachers,

Recently I have read Shaw’s “Major Barbara” . There is an expression which attracted my attention namely “bursting strain”.

Would you be kind enough to tell me the meaning of this connotation in the present case.

Oh, that’s everybody’s birthright. Look at poor little Jenny Hill, the Salvation lassie she would think you were laughing at her if you asked her to stand up in the street and teach grammar or geography or mathematics or even drawing room dancing; but it never occurs to her to doubt that she can teach morals and religion. You are all alike, you respectable people. You cant tell me the bursting strain of a ten-inch gun, which is a very simple matter; but you all think you can tell me the bursting strain of a man under temptation. You daren’t handle high explosive; but you are all ready to handle honesty and truth and justice and the whole duty of man, and kill one another at the game. What a country! What a world!

bursting strain
bursting (adj.) = completely filled, brimful, brimming

brimful = full to the point of flowing over

strain (n) = a great or excessive pressure, demand, or stress on one's body, mind, or resources:
the strain of managing both a family and a career.

the bursting strain of a man under temptation – how far a man can resist temptation (an ironic parallel to the above used expression “the bursting strain of a gun”, i.g. the greatest strain a gun can stand)

Thank you in advance for your efforts.

Regards.

V.
 

Anglika

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The "bursting strain" in a gun is the amount of stress it can absorb during firing before the barrel bursts.

This has been applied metaphorically to the assessment of how much a man can absorb in the way of temptation before he gives in to it. I don't see it as ironic.
 

vil

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Hi Anglika,

Thank you for your reply as well as for your explanation of the matter in question.

You said that you didn’t see in this excerpt from Show’s “Major Barbara” an ironic, but in contradiction from you I see that sort of. What is more, I see there even a heavy sarcasm.

You should to take notice upon another expression namely “ you daren’t handle high explosives “ = you couldn’t deal with explosives” and “ but you are ready to handle honesty and truth and justice etc.” This is a genuine irony.

Major Barbara is one of the dramatist’s most bitterly satirical play. It was written in a period of growing social unrest, just when the English working class were becoming increasingly militant. The heroine of the play, Barbara Undershaft, participates in the work of a well-known philanthropic organization called the “Salvation Army”. It is military in structure and each of its officials holds a certain rank or other. Major Barbara is a whole-heartedly enthusiastic about the Army’s activities until she realizes that it can subsist only on the charity of such enemies of humanity as her father, the armor and gun-maker.

The excerpt is also a very fair sample of Show’s satiric realism.


Regards.

V.
 

Anglika

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Angry, yes. Dismissive of the men, yes. Cynical, yes. Biting, yes.

Ironic, no - there is no "expression of meaning through the use of language which normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous effect".
 

vil

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Hi Anglika,

There are a quote and a few words of me regarding the matter in question:.

Irony is the form of paradox. Paradox is what is good and great at the same time." - Friedrich Schlegel

Major Barbara is one of the dramatist’s most bitterly satirical play. It was written in a period of growing social unrest, just when the English working class were becoming increasingly militant. The heroine of the play, Barbara Undershaft, participates in the work of a well-known philanthropic organization called the “Salvation Army”. It is military in structure and each of its officials holds a certain rank or other. Major Barbara is a whole-heartedly enthusiastic about the Army’s activities until she realizes that it can subsist only on the charity of such enemies of humanity as her father, the armor and gun-maker. This is Shaw’s paradoxical way of stating that in capitalism society there is no escape from harsh reality. Undershaft and Lazarus hid companion run this world, and none but a hypocrite will try to get over the fact.

It is also a bitter paradox of Shaw’s that in his play the most clear-sighted interpreter of all the evils of capitalist civilization and of the modern political system should be a manufacturer of death.

Regards.

V.
 
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