The Black Girl in Search of God

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The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (and Some Lesser Tales)
Author George Bernard Shaw
Illustrator John Farleigh
Publisher Constable and Company
Publication date
1932

The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (and Some Lesser Tales)[1] is a book of short stories written by George Bernard Shaw. The title story is a satirical allegory relating the experiences of an African black girl, freshly converted to Christianity, who takes literally the biblical injunction to "Seek and you shall find me."[2] and attempts to seek out and actually speak to God.

Synopsis[edit]

After she detects the inconsistencies of the answers the missionary who has converted her gives to her her questions, the girl leaves to wander in the forest, searching for God. One by one, she meets a pantheon of Judaeo-Christian and Muslim deities and dignitaries (not to mention an atheist behaviourist with a strong resemblance to Ivan Pavlov and a coterie of undergraduate philosophers) and disposes of them all by trenchant logic and the occasional skilled use of her knobkerry. Eventually she meets an old gentleman who (like Voltaire) persuades her to seek God by working in a garden. He eventually persuades her to abandon her quest, settle down with a "coarse" red-headed Irishman and rear a family. Only after the children are grown and gone does she resume her searching, and by then her "strengthened mental powers take her far beyond the stage at which there is fun in smashing idols".

Satire[edit]

The Black Girl, as protagonist, serves the same purpose as Christian in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress; that is to say her own "inner", or "spiritual" life is represented as a series of physical events and encounters. The over-all tone of the argument is agnostic: through all the rejection of false gods there remains an implied conviction that there is a true god to find: at the end of the work the girl, now an old woman, resumes her search rather than finally abandoning it. She may also be viewed as an emerging feminist figure, able to defend herself with her knobkerry and—although apparently naïve—having a powerful intellect capable of formulating searching theological questions, and exposing vapid answers. Her intellectual powers and red-blooded humanity are contrasted with the "white" characters—especially the insipid missionary woman who "converted" her in the first place, and her thoroughly non-intellectual husband. This use of a superior person supposed by popular prejudice to be inferior, both by her sex and her race, is paralleled by the character of "The Negress"—a powerful figure in The Thing Happens, which is the third part of Back to Methuselah.[3]

Publishing History[edit]

The book was first published in 1932, as Short Stories, Scraps and Shavings. In December 1932 Constable and Company published an edition engraved and designed by John Farleigh with the title The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God. A Riposte appeared in a similarly-presented volume, The Adventures of the White Girl in her Search for God by Charles Herbert Maxwell,[4] which showed an outdoor young woman wielding a niblick on the cover. This book advanced different views of what is really taught by Christianity, and deflected the racial construct presented by Shaw.

A 1934 reprinting including Black Girl, already serialized in 1932, along with a companion essay that disclaimed the supernatural origin of the Bible. In the essay, Shaw declares the Bible to be a book without divine authority—but still important for its ethical messages and valuable as history.

Reaction[edit]

Both the story and the essay outraged the religious public, creating a demand that supported five reprintings.[5] Shaw was greatly distressed when the perceived "irreligious" tone of Black Girl caused a rift in his long-term friendship with Dame Laurentia McLachlan, Abbess of Stanbrook;[6] although eventually they reconciled. Shaw exacerbated the general furore by proposing intermarriage of blacks and whites as a solution to racial problems in South Africa. This was taken as a bad joke in Britain and as blasphemy in Nazi Germany.[7] The full text of this story is available on-line. [8]

Adventures of the brown girl (companion to the Black girl of Mr. Bernard Shaw) in her search for God by Mr and Mrs I. I. Kazi was published in 1933 by A.H. Stockwell.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaw, George Bernard (1934). The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God and Some Lesser Tales. London: Constable and Company, Ltd. pp. 305 pages. 
  2. ^ Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9
  3. ^ s:The Thing Happens: A.D. 2170/Act I, § i Back to Methuselah: The Thing Happens
  4. ^ The Lutterworth Press (London), March 1933.
  5. ^ Gibbs, A. M. (2005). Bernard Shaw. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. pp. 555 pages. ISBN 0-8130-2859-0. 
  6. ^ Weintraub (Editor), Stanley (1977). The Portable Bernard Shaw: Letter to Sister Laurentia McLachlan. NY, NY: Penguin Books, Ltd. pp. 698 pages. ISBN 0-14-015090-0. 
  7. ^ Holroyd, Michael (1997). Bernard Shaw: The One-Volume Definitive Edition. New York: Random House. pp. 833 pages. ISBN 0-375-50049-9. 
  8. ^ Shaw, George Bernard. "The Black Girl in Search of God". Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  9. ^ "Catalogue record for Adventures of the brown girl ...". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 

The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Her Search For God
George Bernard Shaw.
Published 1932 by Constable in London.
First edition December 1932; reprinted [three times] December 1932.

The Adventures Of The Black Girl In Her Search For God
George Bernard Shaw
Published 1933 by Dodd, Mead in New York.
Illustrated t.-p. and lining-papers.
Designed and engraved by John Farleigh