one act play, the progress based on the background of world war1

Analysis/Questions from One Act Play “The Progress” by St. John Ervine

Important Questions For Board Exams:

  1. What are the main elements of a play? Elaborate on any one of them.

The elements of a play(one act play) include setting, plot, characters, dialogue, monologue/soliloquy, theme, conflict, Diction ( language), spectacle (stage), and rhythm. Plot is a very important element of a play. It consists of the main events of the story on which the play is based. It can be termed as the skeleton of the play. It is composed of clearly defined problems for the characters to solve. The plot of a play should be both astonishing and credible. A typical plot consists of the following phases: exposition, which is an introduction to the main characters, setting, and beginning of the conflict; rising action, when conflict gradually intensifies; climax, which is the peak of tension, anticlimax/falling action when the situation reverses and moves towards the final resolution. A good plot is vital to a good play.

  1. What is conflict? Critically analyze conflict in any play you have recently read. Explain how it resolves.

Ans. Conflict means endangered, or opposing desire or the ideological differences between the protagonist and the antagonist. It’s basically when a character wants something but something else gets in the way. It has many types such as man vs man, man vs nature, man vs society, and internal conflict as well. The play “Progress” exemplifies both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is between Professor Corrie- an agent of destruction, and Mrs. Meldon an ambassador of peace. Professor Corrie is excited that he has invented the formula for an extremely deadly bomb that could wipe millions as if they never existed. He shares his triumph with his sister, Mrs. Meldon, and expects that she will be equally happy. Mrs. Meldon, on the other hand, is not happy at all. Already in mourning for her husband and son-the war victims, she tries to convince Professor Corrie that he should destroy his formula as it will destroy life, but he rejects her appeal disdainfully. Mrs. Meldon now undergoes an internal conflict. She has to choose between her brother and humanity. Finally, she resolves to save humanity and thus stabs her brother to death as it is the only means left to destroy the deadly formula

  1. Explain the elements of the plot represented by the context of the play you have recently read.

There are five elements of a plot as represented by the given blob which are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The play which I have read is “Progress”. In the exposition, the author introduces the study of Professor Corrie who seems very excited about his invention. Corrie rejoices over his invention as it can destroy a vast city in a few seconds. Rising actions denote the introduction of the formula to Mrs. Meldon who is already in a state of sorrow and grief. Mrs. Meldon gently reminds him that his invention will lead to the death of hundreds of young men like her son Eddie. But he ignores her words and gloats over his invention fame and wealth. The climax of the play happens at the moment when Mrs. Meldon tries to convince him to destroy his formula. As it can cause much damage to humanity but he doesn’t get convinced. Falling actions appear in the form of a strong debate between Professor Corrie and Mrs. Meldon. It paves the way to the resolution in the play in which Mrs. Meldon couldn’t control herself and killed Professor Corrie by stabbing him with a knife. Though she doesn’t want to do so she finds it essential to save humanity. She feels that this is a justifiable revenge against the murderer of her son on the occasion of the death anniversary of her son.

  1. Recall the theme of a play you have read and explain whether it is of individual or universal significance.

I have read the play “Progress” which has a universal theme. It reveals an anti-war theme. It signifies that we should not favor war and weapons of mass destruction as it destroys mankind on a large scale. We should not give rise to the feelings of hatred and enmity through wars. The play was written after World War I which had perished several families all over the world. The writer wants to spread the message of humanism through this play as he believes that anything that is against humanity should be abolished for the peaceful living of all human beings. In the play “Progress” Professor Corrie has invented a formula that will make war in the future over in a few hours. He will sell it to the country which will offer him the best incentive for it. Blinded by the lust for money, Professor Corrie forgot all about humanity and the peace of the world. Mrs. Meldon wants her brother to destroy his formula only to save humanity. She kills him by the end of the play as she fails to convince Professor to destroy it.

  1. Technology is a threat to humanity. How ?

Technology exemplified by the creation and use of the atomic bomb, highlights a profound threat to humanity. The atomic bomb’s development showcased the immense power and destructive capabilities that technology can unleash upon the world. This technological advancement not only resulted in catastrophic devastation during World War II but also ushered in an era of unprecedented fear of annihilation through nuclear warfare.

technology creates choas in the world
technology creates choas in the world

Mrs. Meldon thinks that the atomic bomb stands as a stark reminder of how unchecked technological advancements can pose existential risks to humanity. Its creation illustrates how scientific progress, when harnessed for destructive purposes or wielded irresponsibly, can jeopardize the very existence of civilization. It underscores the ethical and moral dilemmas surrounding technological innovations, urging for careful consideration and responsible use of technology to safeguard against its potentially devastating consequences. These are the reasons that she killed her own brother to save the humanity.

  1. Playwrights often create conflicting characters whose struggle provides for the crisis or tension in the play.‟ Elaborate on a play you have read.

Answer: Conflicting characters are the engine of a storyline of any work of fiction that drives the story forward. Playwrights often push them into situations of increasing conflict. Conflict, both internal and external, comes from contradictory warring traits inside the characters such as fear versus ambition, and contradiction as a result of a clash between two external and powerful wills pitted against each other. Some characters eventually concede defeat. Others remain stubborn until they succeed or die. In the act play „Progress‟ St. John Ervine establishes a basic conflict between two points of view of the war-mongering arm dealers (represented through the character of Proof. Corrie) and that of the peace-loving universal mothers (represented by Mrs. Meldon). The play „Progress‟ has also sufficiently exposed the motive behind wars –which is to perpetuate and extend the class interests of the war. The conflict finally resolves (with a little violence) in favor of the peace lovers (represented by Mrs. Meldon) point of view through the murder of Prof. Corrie. It seems that true progress necessitates the destruction of the means of destruction.

  1. What is the difference between flexible and inflexible characters? Explain concerning any piece of literature you have come across.

Answer: A character can be defined as any person, animal, or figure represented in a literary work. The characters grip the attention of the reader/ audience and make them want to know what happens next. The concept of flexible and inflexible characters is closely tied to character development. A flexible character goes through some sort of change; they show character development. A protagonist is usually a flexible character. Inflexible characters, on the other hand, are those who do not change throughout the story. They serve to show contrast to flexible ones, refusing to grow and remaining in one place or mentality. In the act play „Progress‟ by St. John Ervine, Mrs. Meldon is a dynamic character because she changes from a weak, lonely, and fretful women into a strong, confident, and passionate woman. She changes from a bereaved widow to a cold and distant person – extremely emotional and impulsive in the interest of humanity. She takes the matter into her own hands. To save the human race from the deadly invention, she picks a knife and stabs her cruel brother to death. On the other hand, Professor Henry Corrie is portrayed as an unsocial, cruel, and uncourteous person. He is obsessed with his before all human relations. From the outset of the play, he is persistent in working on a deadly weapon for the express purpose of fame and fortune. Mrs. Meldon tries her best to make him change his opinion and intention, but he shows no flexibility. He refuses to suppress his evil invention and gets stabbed by his sister.

  1. Describe the climax of the play you have recently read.

In the structure of a play the climax, or crisis, is the decisive moment, or turning point, at which the rising action of the play is reversed to the falling action. The climax of the play happens at the moment when Mrs. Meldon comes to the room of her brother Prof. Corrie and is shocked to see the invention of her brother. As she is against war and destructive weapons, she asks her brother to destroy the invention with his own hands otherwise it would cause much damage to humanity and the peace of the world by killing millions of people. This is a turning point for the play as both siblings come against the ideas of each other.

  1. Explain the character of the protagonist with an example.

The playwright has created a self-centered scientist aged between fifty and sixty who is a confirmed bachelor. His sole interest in life is his scientific experiments. He captivates our attention from the beginning till the end. He felt pleasure in destruction, he says; “with a single bomb, we could wipe out the population of a city as big as Manchester. There is no doubt Professor Corrie is a great scientist. When the curtain goes up we find him engrossed in his experiments but he is a traitor and wants to sell the formula to any government that would pay him the highest price as he says: I shall offer it first to the British Government, of course, but if they won’t pay my price, I shall offer it to somebody else.” These lines speak of his greed for money.

Professor Corrie possesses a very cruel disposition. His eyes reflect the coldness and seriousness of his character. Mr. Meldon is horrified when she learns about his terrible invention and says; “I beg you to destroy your invention” but he is mad for immortality. He hopes; “This will bring fame and fortune to me” and at last killed by his sister because of his greed and lust for money and comes to an end.


  1. Define the elements of the short story.

There are five basic elements of a story:

Setting, Characters, Plot, Conflict, and themes. As well as these, every story also has three additional elements, which are considered more advanced: Point of view, Tone, Style

  • Setting: The setting of the story is the location where the action takes place. Most stories have more than one setting


  • Theme: The theme of a story tells us what the story is actually about- they want to make us understand a particular concept or moral idea. Some common story themes include love, good vs evil, and social or political commentary.
  • Characters: These are the beings that drive the narrative. They create the action, and the events of the story happen to them. Most stories contain certain character archetypes which are Protagonist, Antagonist, Supporting, and character, Foil.


  • Plot: The plot of a story is made up of the main events within the narrative and the order in which they occur. There are five definite sections of a story plot: Exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution or denouement
  • Conflict: This conflict builds suspense and tension until the climax of the story, where the conflict is resolved. The conflict of a story is often a fight between the protagonist and the antagonist.
  • Point of view: Most stories are written in the third person, and told by an omniscient narrator, so we can see what all the characters are saying, doing, thinking, and feeling throughout the story.
  • Tone: What is the overriding emotion that the story makes us feel? Is it happy, sad, wistful, hopeful? This emotion is the tone of the story
  • Style: Style refers to the way the author chooses to tell the story.


  1.  Define the genres of literature.

Genre is the organization and classification of writing. There are a few different types of genres in literature.

  • Poetry: it is written in lines that have meter and rhythm. These lines are put together to form stanzas in contrast to other writings. Poetry often relies heavily on figurative language
  • Drama: This literary genre is often also referred to as a play and is performed in front of an audience. Dramas are written through dialogue and include stage directions for the actors to follow.
  • Prose: Prose is a type of writing that is written through the use of sentences. These sentences are combined to form paragraphs. This type of writing is broad and includes both fiction and non-fiction.
  • Fiction: Fiction is a type of prose that is not real. While fiction can be based on true events, the stories they tell are imaginative.
  • Nonfiction: Nonfiction is another type of prose that is factual rather than imaginative. Because it is more factual and less imaginative, it may use less figurative language.

About the writer:

Written by Sajid Khan who is  an accomplished English lecturer at Riphah International University in Islamabad, Pakistan, holds an M.Phil and is an adept writer in both English and Urdu languages. Known as a contemporary and influential figure in literature, he seamlessly crafts poetry, and short stories, and notably penned the novel “Struggling for Dignity in Death.” With a remarkable track record, Sajid Khan has received numerous accolades on both national and international platforms. His writing delves into significant themes such as feminism, diaspora, Postcolonial Ecocriticism, Ecospirituality, and the intricate dynamics of power politics. His works resonate with a diverse audience, offering profound insights into these multifaceted themes, and making him a standout figure in the literary realm.