Man and Superman by Shaw: Summary, Characters & Analysis

Man and Superman by Shaw: Summary, Characters & Analysis
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  • 0:01 Plot Summary
  • 2:00 Characters
  • 3:16 Analysis
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Roxanna Coldiron

Roxanna has a master's in media management from The New School and a bachelor's in Communication from Hiram College.

This lesson provides a summary of George Bernard Shaw's famous play 'Man and Superman,' which explores traditional gender roles and romance. You'll learn about its characters and take an analytical look into the playwright's mind.

Plot Summary

The highly respectable Roebuck Ramsden, distinguished in age with gray hair and the designer duds of the early 1900s, finds himself in a predicament when his old friend Mr. Whitefield dies. Mr. Ramsden, along with the hotshot young Mr. John 'Jack' Tanner, is charged with the care of Mr. Whitefield's daughters, the beautiful Ann and her younger sister Rhoda. Mr. Ramsden disapproves of Mr. Tanner's Socialist political views, because he feels that the views are radical and dangerous. Mr. Tanner is also not thrilled to be Ann's guardian because he sees the young woman as nothing but trouble. Ann, however, intends to get the uninterested Mr. Tanner to marry her regardless of Mr. Ramsden's objections.

One evening, Mr. Tanner, in the company of robbers and thieves with lively political views, dreams about an incarnation of Don Juan, the famous womanizer, and hears his explanation that, for the wicked, hell is actually not so bad. Marriage, explains the don, is a terrible institution, ruining the potential of creating superhumans. Don Juan's womanizing was the result of woman's scheming, for women made him believe that he loved each of them. He had become their prey. Mr. Tanner awakes from the dream, still against the idea of marrying Ann Whitefield. He agrees to her marriage proposal, though, because he feels that he has no other choice.

Violet Robinson, a friend of the Whitefields, has married in secret. She is pregnant and sends a letter to her husband, Hector Malone Jr. However, the letter is mistakenly delivered to his father, who shares the same name. When her new father-in-law Malone finds out about the marriage, he confronts both Violet and his son Hector. At first, he disapproves of the marriage because she comes from a different social class. Malone gives them his blessing once he realizes that Violet is the perfect woman for his son.

Characters

Roebuck Ramsden is a wealthy man who holds to traditional political values and old-fashioned morality.

John Tanner is the author of a socialist book on revolution, often goes by the name of Jack, and is a confirmed bachelor. He thinks that Ann is not as sweet and dutiful as she appears.

Ann Whitefield, a beguiling young woman, proclaims that she must do as her father had wished, or as her mother tells her to do.

Octavius Robinson is a poet who romanticizes Ann Whitefield as the perfect woman, in spite of the fact that she doesn't return his affection.

Violet Robinson, Octavius' sister, is married to and pregnant by Hector Malone Jr., who holds himself, and others, to the highest levels of morality

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