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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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I had never read George Bernard Shaw before. My only awareness of his works had been watching `My Fair Lady' - which is based on his play Pygmalion. I am impressed.
His dialogue kept me reading. It flowed flawlessly. His characters are believable and endearing. Candida's father is amusing. The side characters were not irrelevant - they added to the storyline. I really enjoyed this play, enough to download every play George Bernard Shaw wrote available on Kindle.
The banter between Candida and Eugene is flavorful. I appreciate her wise thinking. He was head over heels for her, and she was flattered by the attention. She enjoyed his company, but she knew their age variance really did make a difference. I especially thought it poignant that she told him to repeat after her "When I am 30- she will be 45. When I am 60 she will be 75."
Eugene was a dreamer and held a romanticized view of life, without considering all consequences. He was raised affluent, and in a sense looked down on Candida and her husband, a Christian clergyman. He didn't mean to, honestly, in my opinion. He was just raised with money and servants, and didn't believe that Candida should do household chores. But to me, Candida enjoyed doing the chores. She is a nurturer. She enjoys feeling needed. Her husband does not realize what he has in her. He doesn't fathom ever being without her; maybe he takes for granted that she will always be there.
Candida has a deep respect for her husband. Although I believe he was not set for confrontation. It was easier for him to spend time away speaking then face `feelings' at home. I also believe that sometimes he felt it was his duty to honor the speaking engagements, and that took its toll on home life.
I could be completely wrong on my analysis of Candida... but it's what I took from it. Read it and see what YOU take from it. Strongly recommended.
**Side comment** The next read after Candida should be "How He Lied To Her Husband" as it ties into Candida.
It is instructive to read "Candida" and Ibsen's "A Doll's House" back to back. Both are attacks on Victorian-era morality, but Shaw inverts Ibsen's household drama into a comedy; in fact, "A Domestic Comedy" was the original subtitle before he changed it to "A Mystery" to underscore the ambiguity of the play's ending. Shaw himself later stated, on several occasions, that "Candida" was written as "a counter blast to Ibsen's `Doll House,' showing that in the real typical doll's house it is the man who is the doll." (Some critics think "Candida" borders on parody.) And in a 1937 theater program, he wrote, "the cards are not packed against the husband as in Ibsen's play [and] it is his wife who runs the establishment." Shaw does not see women as "the weaker sex"; in fact, it is her husband who is quite explicitly the "weaker" of the pair, while Eugene is the "strange, shy youth of eighteen, slight, effeminate, with a delicate childish voice, and a hunted and tormented expression and shrinking manner."
Although indisputably a classic of the theater, "Candida" doesn't read quite as fluidly on the page as do some of Shaw's later plays; the clash between the two men is faintly ludicrous; their dialogue too mannered. It has survived more as a vehicle for (excellent) actors rather than as a book to be read. Don't get me wrong: it is still a great play, the character of Candida makes up for the shortcomings of her baby-men, and the ending is perfectly and appropriately ambiguous. And there's enough barbed social commentary and trademark Shavian wit to keep most readers happy, including this exchange: "Oh, well, if you want original conversations, you'd better go and talk to yourself." "That is what all poets do: they talk to themselves out loud; and the world overhears them." That might as well be Shaw describing his own work.