Nevertheless, Heartbreak House is filled with witticisms and commentary on life in general that just can't be forgotten. Shaw does not dally long on character descriptions. But he more than makes up for it with the witty and often hilarious banter between his extraordinarily eccentric characters. In fact, this dialogue reveals their true natures and makes them endearing and unforgettable at the same time. My favorite discourses from the play are as follows:
Discourse 1: (Between poor but proud young Ellie and her Bohemian socialite friend, Hesione Hushabye):
ELLIE: ...But how can you love a liar?
MRS HUSHABYE: I don't know. But you can, fortunately. Otherwise there wouldn't be much love in the world.
Discourse 2: (Between Hesione's batty 88 year-old father and her philandering husband, Hector):
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: …Why doesn't your husband invent something? He does nothing but tell lies to women.
HECTOR: Well, that is a form of invention, is it not? However, you are right: I ought to support my wife.
Discourse 3: (Between Hesione's snobby sister who is a governor's wife and wise young Ellie):
LADY UTTERWORD: What an extraordinary way to behave! What is the matter with the man?
ELLIE: His heart is breaking: that is all. It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.
Discourse 4: (Between Ellie and Hesione's wise old father):
ELLIE: Does nothing ever disturb you, Captain Shotover?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: I've stood on the bridge for eighteen hours in a typhoon. Life here is stormier; but I can stand it.
ELLIE: Do you think I ought to marry Mr. Mangan?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: One rock is as good as another to be wrecked on.
Discourse 5: (More wise words from Hesione's father to Ellie):
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER: …I did not let the fear of death govern my life; and my reward was, I had my life. You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life; and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.
Discourse 6: (Between Ellie, Hesione Hushabye, and the business man, Mr. Mangan, whom Ellie is supposed to marry):
MANGAN: …Ever since I came into this silly house I have been made to look like a fool, though I'm as good a man in this house as in the city.
ELLIE: Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I shall call it Heartbreak House.
MRS HUSHABYE: Stop, Ellie; or I shall howl like an animal.
MANGAN: [breaks into a low sniveling]!!!
MRS HUSHABYE: There! You have set Alfred off.
ELLIE: I like him best when he is howling.
Conversations like these and many more like them are what make Heartbreak House and its characters unforgettable. Aside from George Bernard Shaw's introductory manifesto which is close to 50 pages long, the play itself is a short and enjoyable read. I highly recommend it. Please let me know your thoughts and comments on George Bernard Shaw and Heartbreak House in the comments section.
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