Bernard Shaw always considered that the purpose of a writer was not to entertain or satisfy aesthetic needs of the reader, but to criticize and improve. He viewed art as a strong means of influencing the society. His plays are devoted to various social problems. Shaw believed that personal life was interconnected with social conditions.
Following Ibsen, he supported social-critical stream in drama. But Shaw, unlike Ibsen, chose not tragical, but comical situations [2: 14]. He is considered to be a founder of problematic drama where he criticized burning political and social issues of the day.
B.Shaw was called a reformer of English theatre. He viewed a stage as a place for discussion, a clash of ideas, raising vital problems. The playwright created a new structure of drama – problematic play-symposium [3: 16]. Shaw’s ideas and beliefs are rendered chiefly through the dialogue. The personages usually have their own particular views of life and collisions between them usually serve as opportunities for expressing their thoughts.
Bernard Shaw's publicist attitude towards the drama demanded an effective language. His ideas are expressed in short wise, witty sayings, aphorisms, as they are called. When writing on the social contradictions of the 20th century, he often uses striking paradoxes, which bring out his attitude to England's 19th century conventions. One of Shaw’s favourite stylistic devices is a paradox (we understand it as a strange point of view, far from commonly expected and contradictory to the common sense). The truth is often hidden behind such paradoxes. It is discovered that paradoxes turn trivial opinions upside down disclosing their foolishness and hypocrisy, e.g.:
The love of money is the root of all evil.
When people are very poor, you cannot help them, no matter how much you may sympathize with them. It does them more harm than good in the long run.
The dirtier a place is the more rent you get.
I'll have to learn to speak middle-class language from you, instead of speaking proper English.
The great secret... is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls.
Time enough to think of the future when you haven't any future to think of.
Independence? That's middle-class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
One of Shaw’s plays is called "The Apple Cart" (1929). There is an English proverb "to upset the apple-cart" which means that having turned the cart with apples upside down it is impossible to put them in the same order again. Shaw’s plays and striking paradoxes can be compared to that person who upsets the cart – Shaw threw the apples of criticism very persistently destroying commonly accepted views – and after his stinging critics the society couldn’t remain the same [4; 6: 10].
In his comedy "Arms and the Man" the playwright criticized romantic image of war; the play is antimilitary. It was staged by the Independent Theatre in 1894 and was very popular with the public. But the attitude of the government was shown when the Prince of Wales left his seat with indignation in the middle of the play [5: 10]. Later (during the First World War) B.Shaw proclaimed that English and German armies should shoot their officers, return home and gather harvest. The author couldn’t bare the thought that future Shakespeares and Goethes were killing each other in the fields of war. Of course, such thoughts raised a wave of criticism and enmity, and Shaw had often been insulted and attacked in press.
In the play "Arms and the Man" romantic ideas are mocked: Sergius, "hero of Slivnitza" and "the apostle of higher love" turns out to be not so heroic and saint. The hero returns to his native place and meets his fiancée Raina. They behave like in the knight’s romance, their speech is filled with stilted words of sentiment: admiration, worship, battle, deeds, inspired, love, ignoble thought, saint, passion, worshipper, loftiest exaltation. Stylistic devices are widely used: metaphors (Sergius is named "the hero", "the king" and Raina is "the queen" and "the saint"); simile (like a knight in a tournament with his lady looking down at him). Some epithets are used for describing Raina’s staying at home when Sergius was fighting at war: inactive, dreaming, useless.
The syntax is suitable for rendering emotional tense, there are many addresses ("My hero! My King!", "My Lord") and exclamatory sentences. The sentences are not long and complicated: "I trust you. I love you. You will never disappoint me, Sergius". To emphasize the emotional tense aposiopesis is widely used: "Whilst I had to sit at home inactive – dreaming – useless doing nothing that could give me the right to call myself worthy of any man"; "My lord and my…".