Short summary - Heartbreak House - George Bernard Shaw

British literature summaries -

Short summary - Heartbreak House
George Bernard Shaw

The action takes place on a September evening in an English provincial house that resembles a ship in shape, for its owner, a gray-haired old man, captain Châtover, sailed the whole life through the seas. In addition to the captain, his daughter Hesion, a very beautiful forty-five-year-old woman, and her husband, Hector Hushebye, live in the house. There also come invited by Hesiona Ellie, a young attractive girl, her father Mazzini Dan and Mengen, an elderly industrialist whom Ellie is going to marry. Lady Utterword, the younger sister of Hesiona, who had been absent from her home for the last twenty-five years, also came, because she and her husband lived in all the colonies of the British crown, where he was governor. Captain Chateauur at first does not recognize or pretends that he does not recognize his daughter in Lady Utterword, which makes her very upset.

Hesion invited Ellie, her father and Mengen, to upset her marriage, for she does not want the girl to marry an unloved man because of the money and gratitude she feels for him that Mengen once helped her father to avoid complete ruin. In a conversation with Ellie Hesion, he finds out that the girl is in love with a certain Mark Darily, whom she met recently and who told her about her extraordinary adventures, which conquered her. During their conversation, Hector comes into the room, the husband of Hesion, a handsome, well-preserved fifty-year-old man. Ellie suddenly falls silent, turns pale and staggers. This is the one who introduced herself as Mark Darnley. Hesion drives her husband out of the room to bring Ally to life. Recovering, Ellie feels that all her girlish illusions burst in an instant,


«At the request of Hesion, Ellie tells her everything about Mengen, about how he once gave her father a large sum to prevent the bankruptcy of his enterprise. When the company nevertheless went bankrupt, Mengen helped her father get out of such a difficult situation by buying all the production and giving him the position of manager. Captain Châtover and Mengen enter. At first glance, the captain understands the nature of the relationship between Ellie and Mengen. He discourages the latter from marrying because of a big age difference and adds that his daughter, by all means, decided to upset their wedding.

Hector first met Lady Utterword, whom he had never seen before. Both make a huge impression on each other, and each is trying to lure the other into their networks. In Lady Utterword, as Hector confesses to his wife, there is a family devilish charm of the Marques. However, he is not capable of falling in love with her, as, indeed, with any other woman. According to Hesion, the same can be said about her sister. Hector and Lady Utterword play cat and mouse with each other all evening.

Mengen wants to discuss his relationship with Ellie. Ellie tells him that she agrees to marry him, referring in conversation to his good heart. He finds an attack of frankness on Mengen, and he tells the girl how he ruined her father. Ellie now doesn’t care. Mengen is trying to back down. He is no longer eager to marry Ally. However, Ally threatens that if he decides to terminate the engagement, then he will only get worse. She is blackmailing him.

He falls into a chair, exclaiming that his brains cannot stand it. Ellie strokes him from his forehead to his ears and is mesmerizing. During the next scene, Mengen, apparently sleeping, actually hears everything, but cannot move, no matter how others try to stir him up.

Hesion convinces Mazzini Dan not to marry her daughter for Mengen. Mazzini says everything that he thinks about him: that he does not understand anything in the machines, is afraid of the workers, cannot manage them. He is such a baby that he does not even know what to eat and drink. Ellie will create a regime for him. She will still make him dance. He is not sure that it is better to live with a man whom you love, but who has run errands all his life. Ellie comes in and swears to her father that she will never do anything that she would not want and did not consider it necessary to do for her own good.

Mengen wakes up when Ellie takes him out of a state of hypnosis. He is furious at everything he heard about himself. Hesion, who had been wanting to switch Mengen’s attention from Ellie to herself all evening, seeing his tears and reproaches, realizes that his heart also broke in this house. And she did not suspect that Mengen had it at all. She is trying to console him. Suddenly, a shot rang out in the house. Mazzini leads a thief into the living room, whom he nearly shot. The thief wants to be reported to the police and he could atone for his guilt, cleanse his conscience. However, no one wants to participate in the lawsuit. The thief is informed that he can go, and they give him money so that he can acquire a new profession. When he is already in the doorway, Captain Châtover enters and recognizes Bill Dan, his former boatswain, who once robbed him.

When everyone disagrees, Ellie talks with the captain, who advises her not to marry Mengen and not to let her fear of poverty rule her life. He tells her about his fate, about his cherished desire to achieve the seventh degree of contemplation. Ellie feels unusually good with him.

Everyone gathers in the garden in front of the house. It is a beautiful, quiet moonless night. Everyone feels that Captain Châtover’s house is a strange house. In it, people behave differently from what is customary. Hesion begins to ask her sister for her opinion on whether Ellie should marry Mengen only because of his money. Mengen is in terrible confusion. He does not understand how to say such a thing. Then, angry, he loses his caution and reports that he doesn’t have his own money and never had it, that he simply takes money from syndicates, shareholders and other capitalists that are not suitable for anything and sets the factories in motion - they pay him a salary for this. Everyone begins to discuss Mengen with him, why he completely loses his head and wants to strip naked, because, in his opinion, morally, everyone in this house has already been exposed naked.


Ellie reports that she still will not be able to marry Mengen, since half an hour ago in heaven, her marriage to captain Shatover took place. She gave her broken heart and her healthy soul to the captain, her spiritual husband and father. Hesion finds that Ellie has acted unusually clever. As they continue the conversation, a dull explosion is heard in the distance. Then they call the police and ask for the lights to go out. The light goes out. However, the captain Châtover ignites it again and tears the curtains from all the windows so that the house can be better seen. Everyone is excited. The thief and Mengen do not want to follow the shelter into the basement, but climb into the sand pit, where the captain stores dynamite, though they don’t know about it. The rest remain in the house, not wanting to hide. Ellie even asks Hector himself to light the house. However, there is no time for this.

A terrible explosion shakes the earth. Broken glass fly out of the windows with a clink. The bomb fell directly into the sand pit. Mengen and the thief die. The plane flies by. There is no more danger. House-ship remains unharmed. Ellie is desperate for this. Hector, who spent his whole life in him as the husband of Hesion, or rather her room dog, also regrets that the house is intact. On his face is written disgust. Hesion experienced a wonderful sensation. She hopes that maybe tomorrow the planes will fly again.