"Heartbreak house” is a
somewhat plotless play. That’s way I’d like to speak about emotions and
feelings rather than actions.
The atmosphere in the play is maddening. It seems to me that everyone is
getting crazy. And the most interesting character to speak about is certainly
Captain Shotover. He is the madness itself. He talks nonsense. He doesn’t pay
attention to the fact he hurts people’s feelings. He treats his daughter like
an unknown lady. He is crazy about his dynamite. BUT! He doesn’t belong to
"those hogs to whom the universe is nothing but a machine for greasing their
bristles and filling their snouts.” And he is telling the truth. He did
recognize his daughter! But he didn’t show it to her. He IS saying funny and
stupid things that make one blush. He’s telling the truth, mad truth. But the
others perceive it like madness, true madness.
Another problem of the story which makes up the plot is: Will Ellie marry for
Ellie is in love with Hector. But he will never be hers. That’s why she
concludes: "If I can’t have love, that’s no reason why I should have poverty.”
"Heartbreak House” provides a comic rebuke to cynicism, self-indulgence and
Bernard Shaw is one of the
best writers of his times. In his plays he tries to observe human nature and he
is very successful at this.
While reading, the reader can imagine the emotional state of every character.
"Heartbreak house” is a play where the author presents us people from high
society. They are quite successful in life. But they all have some inner
problems. They are jealous, envious and greedy. It seems that all these vices
are the reason for their problems. But at the end of the play the characters
are morally naked and, perhaps, in this episode the author presupposes that the
reader will think about the causes of such crazy atmosphere in the house and
decide for himself what one has to do to escape all this misunderstanding in
The play "Heartbreak house” is full of different problems. To my mind the
most important issue that is shown here is the problem of constant lying. I
guess that is the reason for such crazy behavior of all the people in the
house. They all pretend to be friends; they all try to show that they respect
each other. But that is not true at all. Ellie wants to marry Mangan just
because of money; Mr. Hushabye, being quite a handsome man, doesn’t pay any
attention to the fact that he is married but just tries to flirt with other
women. Even Hesione tells people all the time that her hair is the best and
everybody admires that black color. But they don’t even suspect that the color
is not natural.
Even the simple things they do or say show that they are full of lies and
pretensions. Probably the author wants to prove that lying all the time can’t
make you happy at all. It can just make life more difficult, complicated,
totally unpredictable and thus unbearable.
B.Shaw's "Heartbreak House” is
a play that has a great deal of themes to discuss. It tells us about the
relationships between the people in the House, it reveals all their secrets,
thoughts and designs against each other.
At first sight the whole atmosphere of the play can be regarded as crazy, even
insane. Each of the characters seems to be as mad as a March Hare. But at the
same time we understand that these people are torn by their feelings, they are
overwhelmed by their emotions. More than that, in this play we can witness all
human feelings that can ever exist: love, hatred, adoration, disgust, envy,
jealousy, indifference, pride, etc...
The characters make the reader shocked by their actions: Ellie, who is going to
marry one old rich man, but marries another, Lady Utterword who is tempting her
sister's husband, Lady Hushabye, who is showing her feelings towards Mangan,
being watched by her own husband and the very husband, who can't resist any
temptation, being near a pretty woman. Everything is mixed, everything is
absurd. But sometimes we can find something reasonable even in this chaos of a
house. But is there anything reasonable in the actions of the characters of
this play? Yes. They are sincere. The people in "Heartbreak House” don't
pretend, they are frank and all we can see is a number of people who just live
as they can.
By the end of the play they reveal all of their secrets, they "stripped
themselves morally naked”. May be it seems ridiculous and sometimes we find
ourselves laughing while reading about their actions, but at the same time we
DO believe them.
To my mind, it is Shaw's message: notwithstanding how stupid it may seem, live.
Do what you intend to do, behave as you used to and take as much as you can
from this life, because we live only once and the life we have mustn't be
empty. The characters of the play let themselves express all their feelings and
that is the root cause of their problems and difficulties. But at the same
time, that makes their life full of sense.
The insanity itself
"MANGAN [gasping]. You little devil, you've done me. [On the point of collapsing
into the big chair again he recovers himself]. Wait a bit, though: you're not
so cute as you think. You can't beat Boss Mangan as easy as that. Suppose I go
straight to Mrs. Hushabye and tell her that you're in love with her husband. ELLIE. She knows it. MANGAN. You told her!!! ELLIE. She told me. MANGAN [clutching at his bursting temples]. Oh, this is a crazy
Let me show my view of "Heartbreak House" beginning with this funny
dialogue. This situation is very absurd. It tells us that in this house every
person knows everything about everybody. Mangan is quite right telling Elli
that "this house is crazy". Natural relationships among people are
very distorted here.
The whole atmosphere in the house is very sarcastic. On the one hand it's as
funny as the piece of the dialogue I've already shown you, but, on the other
hand it's very terrible. All people in the house lie to each other. Elli,
Mangan and all the others play with their own lives and with the destinies of
those who exist near them. It seems that insanity itself lives in this house.
I must admit that we couldn't realize and feel the whole variety of
relationships and the whole atmosphere of the house without the literary genius
of Bernard Shaw. He is a very good observer of human nature. In this play the
author shows us the absurdity of people's relationships. Shaw doesn't judge or
blame his characters, they do this themselves. We just continue watching their
existence in the "Heartbreak House" enjoying it.
I've already told about some themes and issues in this play. They are: people's
relationships, total lying, indifference to other people. The characters of the
play are egoists. They live according to the principle "after us the
deluge". They don't care even about themselves, their fates. They grab
life with their hands and eat it. They sink into lying.
To conclude I must say, that the main message of the play is that people must
care about their lives. We are responsible not only for our actions, thoughts
and fate. We all live in society, so we must take care of other people and be
honest with ourselves and with them. Playing with our lives we play with death
itself, and in this kind of game it is absolutely impossible to win.
The play that is still urgent
"Heartbreak House” is a play for those who like witty English humor. But
as it always happens in Shaw’s plays this one is full of ably elaborated
ideas that at times make one think very much.
This particular play reveals many types of people to the reader. Captain,
Mrs. Hushabye, Hector, even a robber – they are prototypes of real people.
Shaw speaks about the social situation, about socialism in general. It’s a
kind of metaphor of England before the war. Shaw explains to us what it was
like at the beginning of the XX century. Captain Shotover is the one who
often speaks about the chaos reigning at the time.
And certainly there is an issue concerning relationships between men and
women. Apparently in this play we see that shrewd cunning women put their men
under their little fingers. I’m apt to think that women can easily manage men
and make them do whatever women want. Gender roles are very well arranged,
and therefore we see human nature as it is. Again Shaw is acknowledged as an
observer of human nature, and specifically of relationships between people.
Nonetheless "Heartbreak House” is still a comedy. I reckon Shaw can’t live
without humor, satire and witty sarcasm. There should be something to conceal
the main issues from the reader, some kind of a screen. And humor plays its
role. It is here to make readers think of the "underwater flows” of the
The tool of satire, in the hands of a master like Shaw, compels us to examine
our own lives, and the ways we live them. Even now, nearly a century later,
we are still living in "Heartbreak House" - and Shaw's appeal to us
is more urgent than ever. Ultimately, Shaw's message is that we are not dead
yet - only asleep. Can we awaken before it is too late? If we are monstrous
enough to blow up the preacher's house in the early 21st century, then each
of us must be our own Savior - a notion which should be as powerful as it is horrifying
It is a house where hearts are
broken; it is a place where broken personalities are destined to meet. It seems
that everything here is turned upside down. In "Heartbreak House” the wife
chases other men for her own pleasure whereas the husband chases other women.
It is weird as they both accept this behaviour and allow each other to do it,
and they still ’love’ each other as well. The father pretends not to recognize his
daughter; the daughter pretends not to understand that twenty-three years of
absence is rather long time. But in this maddening atmosphere of the house the
characters are trying to find the truth. During the play they become
morally-naked and helpless. They are looking for a refuge seeking for it in
Within these conversations, dialogs and monologs the author makes an attempt to
convince the readers that even insanity may be full of healthy ideas. He states
that appearance and real nature of people are often on fighting terms with each
other. In his play a very handsome man of fifty, sober-minded and imposing
(that is Hector Hushabye) turns out to be a deceitful womanizer. A pretty young
girl (Ellie), whose image is more suitable for tales of chivalry, literary
shocks the reader by her overwhelming passion for money. The house father, who
is represented to be deaf within his surrounding as he does not want to get
involved in their calamities, is actually the only person in that house who
always comes up with the idea that the soul is the most important thing in the
world. (By the way, I think he is a character who embodies the idea of wit and
humour. He is the most unique figure in comparison to any other characters.)
Bernard Shaw makes it clear that fake love and sincere indifference go hand in
hand, and who knows what is better: to be deceived or to be told the truth.
Every character is so peculiar that, brought together in one place, they seem
to be strange, alien to each other. This house seems to be a hostel where
people have no desire to know what is happening to their neigbours. People lack
compassion; they manipulate others for their benefit and advantage. Love,
beauty, wealth, and even intelligence become merely means of manipulating and
using other people. Ironically, all characters in the play believe that what
they do serves their purpose in life though they don’t have any purpose at all.
The characters can’t wake up from illusions of life. Shotover, Hesione,
Ariadne, Hector, Randall, Mangan are all reluctant to leave their leisure and
their profane occupations with drink, money, love, and power. They live in a
dream, and sometimes it seems to us that during the whole play they are
desperately trying to awaken themselves from this deep sleep.
It is a play that throws out a challenge to our ordinary understanding of the
world. There are still a lot of issues which can be interpreted in a free
manner. Can we account for the end of the play? Why did the author let his two
characters be killed? What is the reason for bringing so many characters to one
place within such a short play? Is there any point in introducing the
characters in such an order? It is up to you to think them over.