Mrs. Warren's Profession
In life the struggle between what is good and necessary for the individual and the moral values placed upon people by society is constantly present. This is true of the characters in George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession. Shaw demonstrates that doing something frowned upon by society does not have to be an evil thing so long as it is good for the individual.
Perhaps the most obvious example of societal morals conflicting with individual need is the case of Mrs. Kitty Warren. Mrs. Warren is a woman whose economic standing and lack of any professional skills forced her into becoming a prostitute. Obviously such a profession is against the beliefs of the society that she lives in. Not only is she not ashamed of her occupation, she is proud of the amount of money that it, as well as managing several houses of prostitution, has made for her. When asked of any shame about her job by her daughter she states, "Well of course dearie, it's only good manners to be ashamed of it: it's expected of a woman." This statement shows that the only reason that one would be ashamed of it is because of society says that one should be. She feels that the restrictions that society has placed on women has made it impossible for her to pursue any other lifestyle. She demonstrates this by saying, "It's far better than any other employment open to [women]... It can't be right, Vivie, that there shouldn't be better opportunities for women." Shaw is attempting to evoke sympathy for the character of Mrs. Warren by pitting her against a society that is against her. He is quite obviously in favor of the actions that Mrs. Warren has taken, as demonstrated by the very reasonable rationalization for what she has done and the approving reaction of her daughter Vivie.
While it can be seen that Shaw approves of going against societal morals in the case of need, he is in the direct opposite opinion when it comes to continually doing it for only the purposes of greed. This is clearly shown when it is discovered by Vivie that Mrs. Warren, while definitely having enough money to live on, still engages in the business of prostitution. Describing her reasons for continuing with her profession, Mrs. Warren says, "It means a new dress every day; it means theatres every night ... it means everything you like everything you want, everything you can think of." These reasons obviously do not cause the sympathy that accompanied her reasons for starting her occupation in the first place. In fact they begin to cause feelings of disgust that someone would do that simply to get even more money than the fortune that they already have amassed. It is due to the disapproval of this continuation that Mrs. Warren is punished by not only losing the sympathy, but also gaining the anger of her daughter.
Another example of Shaw's disapproval for acting against societal morals simply for the purposes of greed is shown through the character of Frank Gardner. Frank's main goal throughout the play is to marry Vivie in order to gain part of the huge amount of money that is given to Vivie by her mother. Clearly this is against the normally socially accepted reason for marrying, and will benefit Frank. Because he is simply doing it out of greed instead of necessity Shaw does not make create an aura of sympathy for him. He paints him as an annoying manipulative character that is constantly insulting his own father, a reverend, with comments such as, " You're not intellectual or artistic ; are you, pater." Throughout the play Vivie, again acting as the representative of Shaw's views, is constantly blowing off his attempts at winning her affection. Finally gives up his attempts when he realizes how her mother earns the money. He states , "I really can' bring myself to touch the old woman's money now." Vivie is quite glad to be rid of him.
Shaw's opinions on society against the individual are clearly outlined in this play. Through the actions and words of...
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