Mrs. Warren’s Profession

by

George Bernard Shaw

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Mrs. Warren’s Profession: Act 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next Act opens that night inside the cottage. Frank and Mrs. Warren enter after a walk. Mrs. Warren is tired and complains that she dislikes the boring life in the country and wishes she were in Vienna. Frank says he would like to take her to Vienna, and squeezes her shoulders flirtatiously as he helps her off with her shawl. Mrs. Warren says Frank is very like his father, but he is too young for Vienna. He makes a mocking face and continues to flirt with her.
Frank has picked up on the fact that Mrs. Warren is not a respectable woman of his class. He flirts with her because he knows she is not bound by her class background and sense of propriety to refuse to flirt with a younger man, and perhaps out of curiosity about his father’s past. Frank hopes to duplicate his father’s life as a young playboy instead of reforming as his father suggests.
Themes
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Class, Respectability, Morality, and Complicity Theme Icon
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Mrs. Warren pretends to box Frank’s ears, then kisses him. She says she shouldn’t have done that, adding that it was only a motherly kiss and he should flirt with Vivie instead. Frank says he already is flirting with Vivie. Alarmed, Mrs. Warren tells him not to trifle with her little girl. Frank says that his intentions are honorable and that Vivie can take care of herself. Mrs. Warren remarks that Frank is much more of a smart-aleck than his father was.
The idea of Frank pursuing Vivie suggests to Mrs. Warren the danger that Vivie’s life may resemble her own. Mrs. Warren had a scandalous, secret affair with Frank’s father, and she wants nothing of the sort for Vivie. She wants to protect Vivie from sex, as upper-class girls were typically protected, and Frank’s overtly flirtatious behavior seems to threaten that ideal.
Themes
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Class, Respectability, Morality, and Complicity Theme Icon
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Crofts and Reverend Gardner enter, talking about politics. Mrs. Warren asks them where Praed and Vivie are. Crofts says that they walked further on, while he and the Reverend had a drink. Mrs. Warren complains that Vivie should not have gone off without telling her.
Even though Mrs. Warren has been absent for most of her daughter’s life, she hopes to assert her rights to control her daughter now. Yet Vivie continues to act independently without consulting her mother.
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Mrs. Warren asks Crofts where he and Praed can stay that night. Crofts says he will stay with the Gardners, but is indifferent to where Praed stays. Mrs. Warren asks Reverend Gardner to host Praed. Reverend Gardner inquires about Praed’s social position. Mrs. Warren says Praed is an architect, adding that Reverend Gardner is uptight. Frank tells his father that Praed built Caernarvon Castle for a duke, but winks at Mrs. Warren. Reverend Gardner agrees to host Praed.
Clearly, when Reverend Gardner was young and had an affair with Mrs. Warren (then Miss Vavasour), he cared little for class distinctions, but he is now obsessed with respectability and status, as if to compensate for his earlier lax attitude. Ever ready to mock his father, Frank tells him that Praed was the architect for a castle which was built in the 13th century and undergoing an expensive and highly publicized restoration at the time of the play’s production. The audience of Shaw’s day would have shared in Frank’s laughter at his father’s obliviousness.
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Mrs. Warren is impatient for Vivie and Praed’s return. Frank says they will be gone for a long time, because Praed will love being on a long walk on a summer night with Vivie. Crofts is offended. Reverend Gardner says that Frank must not think about Vivie romantically. He appeals for support to Mrs. Warren, but she says she knows no reason why Frank and Vivie should not marry. She asks if he thinks her daughter isn’t good enough for his son. Reverend Gardner says that Mrs. Warren knows the reasons they cannot marry. She denies this, saying he can explain the reasons to his son if he wants to. Frank says his father’s reasons will not influence what he does.
Crofts is considering Vivie as a potential romantic partner, so he doesn’t like Frank’s bold comment about her, which suggests that Frank and Vivie have spent time unchaperoned together at night. Reverend Gardner hints to Mrs. Warren that Frank and Vivie should not be a couple because he and she used to be lovers, although it is unclear whether he believes Vivie may be his daughter, which would make Frank and Vivie half-siblings. But Mrs. Warren, caught up in her plans for Vivie to be treated differently than she was, assumes that Reverend Gardner is prejudiced against Vivie because of her class background.
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Crofts stands up, frowning, and says that Frank cannot marry Vivie. Mrs. Warren and Frank both ask Crofts what say he has in the matter. Crofts says that Mrs. Warren surely won’t want Vivie to marry a penniless younger man. To Crofts’ satisfaction, Reverend Gardner confirms that his son has no money. Frank complains that Vivie should be allowed to marry for love, but Mrs. Warren says that he “can’t have Vivie” if he has no money. Reverend Gardner agrees. Frank says he already knows what Crofts thinks. Crofts tells him not to be cheeky, but Frank replies that Crofts himself was rude to him. Frank says he will not give up his pursuit of Vivie. He says he will propose to her soon because he imagines her mother will try to marry her to someone else if he doesn’t act quickly.
While Mrs. Warren feels she can decide her daughter’s fate because she is her mother, Crofts feels entitled to some claim over Vivie because of his gender, fortune, and social position. He assumes that there is a price for Vivie, just as there was a price for her mother, although he bought sex with Mrs. Warren and wants to buy Vivie’s hand in marriage. Frank seems to have a more modern attitude, contending that Vivie should marry out of love, but at the same time he also sees marrying her as an economic transaction, hoping to become rich in the process.
Themes
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Vivie and Praed enter the cottage. Mrs. Warren becomes ill-at-ease around Vivie and resorts to being domineering. She demands to know where Vivie has been. Vivie answers her, but then moves onto another subject without waiting to listen to her mother’s rebuke. Vivie says that only four people can fit at the kitchen table at once and decides that she and Frank should wait to eat second. Mrs. Warren advocates for someone else to wait to eat with Vivie, but Vivie prevails. After going into the kitchen, Mrs. Warren calls for Vivie to leave the door open. Craftily, Frank goes and opens the front door of the cottage, letting in cold air. Mrs. Warren calls out again for Vivie to close the door to the kitchen. Vivie looks with disgust at her mother’s hat lying untidily on a table and puts it away.
Although Vivie has been staying in the house and her mother is a guest, Mrs. Warren tries to dictate all the arrangements. She does this both because she wants to assert her own dominance over Vivie as a mother and because she hopes to keep Frank and Vivie apart. While Mrs. Warren worries about preserving Vivie’s respectability and virginity by keeping her from unsupervised contact with the seductive, impoverished Frank, Vivie sees her mother’s untidiness as a sign of bad manners.
Themes
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Frank happily exclaims that they got rid of the older people, then asks Vivie her opinion of his father. Vivie says he doesn’t seem very smart. Frank explains that he was pushed into the church, and in trying to seem like a good clergyman makes a fool of himself. He asks Vivie how she thinks she will get along with Reverend Gardner. Vivie says she doesn’t think she will spend much time with any of her mother’s old friends, except perhaps Praed.
Although Frank and Vivie both look down on their parents, Frank has a more understanding stance on his father’s ridiculous personality, suggesting that because his father tries too hard to set a moral example, he seems pompous and cannot exhibit his good qualities. When Frank asks Vivie if she thinks she will get along with his father, he means to hint that she will spend time with Reverend Gardner once they are married and his father becomes her father-in-law. But Vivie either doesn’t understand this hint, or she ignores it.
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Vivie asks Frank’s opinion of Mrs. Warren. Frank says that Mrs. Warren’s personality is a bit alarming and Crofts’ is even worse. Vivie says she would kill herself if she thought she was going to live a life without any purpose or work like the older generation. Frank says there’s nothing wrong with not working—the problem with the older generation is that they don’t do it with style. Vivie says Frank will be just as bad when he gets to Crofts’ age if he doesn’t work. Frank begins to flirt with Vivie, saying she shouldn’t lecture him because he is an incorrigible little boy. Vivie tells him to be serious, but he continues to flirt. She calls into the kitchen, asking if there is room now for Frank to eat, saying he is starving. Mrs. Warren says there is room for both Frank and Vivie, who go into the kitchen.
Frank speaks euphemistically, but still expresses his disapproval for Crofts and Mrs. Warren. He blames them not for being libertines, however, but for seeming to lack style. Vivie has none of Frank’s sympathy for members of the older generation. Instead, she looks down on the older generation for believing that the life of the idle rich is a sign of high class status. Vivie finds nothing charming about Frank’s hope that he will also live a life of leisure, and bluntly refuses to flirt with him when he tries to tease her. Instead, Vivie hopes to put her education to good use and choose her own path in life.
Themes
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Mrs. Warren and Crofts exit the kitchen and come into the room alone together. Crofts had a drink and nothing to eat, and Mrs. Warren complains about the unappetizing food. Mrs. Warren demands to know why Crofts has been looking at her daughter and lectures him, posturing as an overprotective mother. Crofts sneers at her as if she does not live up to the role.
Mrs. Warren’s dissatisfaction with the food marks her as someone who loves luxurious and extravagant foods, while Crofts shows that he cares mostly about alcohol. When Mrs. Warren tries to project moral authority as a doting parent, Crofts scoffs, as if to remind her of their many shared experiences that are deemed forbidden by respectable society. 
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Crofts asks how old Vivie is, but Mrs. Warren refuses to answer. Crofts asks why Vivie shouldn’t marry him: he’s rich, a baronet, and the only man with his social status who would accept a mother-in-law like her. He says that the three of them could live comfortably together, Vivie would inherit everything when he dies, and he will even write Mrs. Warren a check on the day of the wedding. Mrs. Warren expresses disgust. Reverend Gardner, Vivie, and Frank return from the kitchen, and an angry Crofts rushes outside.
Crofts is fixated on learning Vivie’s age because he wants to calculate whether she could be his daughter, based on the time period when he was sleeping with Mrs. Warren. But once Mrs. Warren refuses to tell him, he lets the issue drop, instead pressing her to let him marry her daughter because he is rich and has a title. His suggestion that he will pay Mrs. Warren on the day of his wedding with her daughter recalls the fee paid to a brothel’s owner by a customer having sex with one of the prostitutes living in it.
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Mrs. Warren tells the others that Crofts went outside to smoke a pipe. In a tone of affected maternal concern, Mrs. Warren asks Vivie how her dinner was. Vivie says it was terrible, like all of Mrs. Alison’s suppers, then turns to Frank, patting his arm and talking to him in a baby voice about how he didn’t get enough to eat. In a more practical vein, she makes a note to herself to buy better butter than her landlady provides.
In the previous scene, Vivie refused Frank’s overtures to flirt with him as if he were “an incorrigible little boy.” But now she, like her mother, has been somewhat won over by his charm. At the same time, Vivie remains cold to Mrs. Warren’s attempts to seem maternal. Instead, she makes it clear that she can handle her own household, by making a note on a shopping list.
Themes
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Reverend Gardner says he and Frank should be going, because his wife doesn’t know they have guests. Praed worries that he is causing the Gardners trouble, but Frank says his mother will be glad to meet Praed, because she never meets anyone intellectual or artistic—only his father. Frank says he will stay with the Warrens, but Praed reminds him that mother and daughter might want some time alone together. Frank says Praed is right, adding that he wishes the wise Praed had been his father. Reverend Gardner is offended, and Mrs. Warren laughs at him, saying he should make Frank behave better. Everyone bids one another goodnight, and Mrs. Warren walks Praed out.
Frank continues to tease his father mercilessly. Although Reverend Gardner made the considerate suggestion that he and Frank return home to warn his wife that they will be having guests, Frank gives all the credit to Praed, who similarly suggests a way that he can be considerate. Mrs. Warren seems to find comfort in seeing another parent mistreated by a child, especially since she dislikes any suggestion that Reverend Gardner or Frank are superior to her and Vivie. 
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Frank tries to get Vivie to kiss him, but she refuses and goes to sit by the fireplace with a book. Mrs. Warren reenters and Frank flirtatiously kisses her hand. She menaces him, but he runs out, laughing mischievously. Looking bored now that the men are gone, Mrs. Warren exclaims to Vivie that Frank is a tease. She says that Vivie should not encourage him, because he is a good-for-nothing. Vivie agrees, although she says she will feel bad for him when she breaks it off. She says that Crofts seems to her like a good-for-nothing too. Mrs. Warren is shocked; she says that Vivie is too young to know about men’s characters, and she will have to see a lot of Crofts because he is her friend.
Mrs. Warren likes Frank, so when she calls him a “good-for-nothing” it is because she thinks of sex and romance in economic terms. Frank is not rich, so he is of no use as a potential mate for Vivie. Crofts, on the other hand, is the opposite of a good-for-nothing as far as Mrs. Warren is concerned, because he is wealthy and can pay for lovers or support a wife in comfort. Vivie sees things differently. To her mind, it is because Crofts is a member of the idle rich who lives off inherited wealth and investments that he is good for nothing.
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Keeping her composure, Vivie asks Mrs. Warren if she thinks that they will be spending much time together in the future. Mrs. Warren is surprised: she says that they will be together until Vivie is married. Vivie says she doubts her mother would enjoy her lifestyle. Mrs. Warren is shocked and angry, calling Vivie a fool. She says that Vivie has become very stuck up since she tied with the third wrangler, and that Vivie’s way of life will be what her mother chooses.
Vivie’s education – paid for by her mother – will provide her with opportunities to choose her profession that are unusual for a woman of her day. Her mother assumes that, despite her academic achievements, Vivie will act like many women at the time and obediently live with her mother until she marries.
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Mrs. Warren continues her harangue, but Vivie stays silent until Mrs. Warren demands, “do you know who you’re speaking to, Miss?” At that, Vivie replies that she doesn’t know who her mother is; while everyone else knows her reputation and social standing, she knows nothing about her mother’s life. Mrs. Warren says she will do something that they will both regret later if Vivie keeps talking in this challenging way. Vivie haughtily says that they can set the topic aside. She tells Mrs. Warren that she is out of shape and should exercise more. Mrs. Warren is hurt, but Vivie says if she begins to cry she will leave the room. Mrs. Warren asks Vivie how she can be so hard on her mother, and Vivie defiantly asks if she really is her mother. Mrs. Warren makes sorrowful exclamations.
Vivie wants to use Mrs. Warren’s insistence on being secretive about her life against her mother. She suggests that Mrs. Warren must earn any authority she wields by letting Vivie know more about who she is. Mrs. Warren had apparently planned to raise her daughter into the upper class, but still exercise full parental authority over her. However, Vivie not only feels empowered by her education to choose her own path, but she also sees her mother’s emotional outbursts and poor physical fitness as signs of bad manners and slovenliness associated with the lower class. To her mind, this is further evidence that her mother has no right to control her.
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Vivie says she knows nothing to prove that Mrs. Warren is her mother. She demands to be told her father’s name and who their relatives are. She says she has no way of knowing that the sleazy Crofts isn’t her father, but Mrs. Warren says that she is sure that Vivie’s father isn’t Crofts or anyone else Vivie has met. Looking at her mother sternly, Vivie says that she understands from the way her mother phrased her answer that this is all Mrs. Warren knows about who her father was.
At the time, when any sexual promiscuity for women was considered immoral, Mrs. Warren’s inability to pinpoint who Vivie’s father is would be a scandalous confession that she lacks the status of a respectable woman. Vivie does not yet realize that her mother worked as a prostitute, but she feels that her own status as a respectable woman is much more secure than her mother’s.
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Vivie abruptly says that they have talked enough and should go to bed. Mrs. Warren is shocked by Vivie’s brusque treatment of her. She asks what kind of woman Vivie is. Vivie replies that she is the type who gets business done, then says again that they should go to bed.
Mrs. Warren expects Vivie to be easily dominated, like most women were expected to be. Yet Vivie plans to direct her own life and not to allow a woman she does not know well or respect to control her.
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Mrs. Warren suddenly drops all attempts to sound genteel and speaks with conviction and scorn for Vivie’s pretensions, saying that Vivie has no right to look down on her, after she did everything to give Vivie the chance to become what she is. Vivie is taken aback. She explains that she doesn’t think she is superior to her mother, but she had to defend herself against her mother’s attempts to dictate her behavior. She says she won’t stand for her mother’s nonsense, and won’t expect her mother to stand for hers, but will respect her mother’s right to her own opinions and way of life.
Mrs. Warren has been assuming manners and patterns of speech of the upper class, but now, in her anger, she reverts to her natural way of speaking, with less decorum and with the accent of lower-class neighborhoods. Vivie knows her mother is right when she says Vivie wouldn’t have been able to become an educated member of the upper class if her mother hadn’t provided for her. Defensively, Vivie says she doesn’t look down on her mother out of snobbishness or the sense that Mrs. Warren is lower class. Instead, she rejects her mother’s traditional idea that she can control her simply because she is her mother.
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Mrs. Warren scoffs at the idea that she had any choice about her way of life. Vivie replies that everyone has some choice. Even the poor, she says, can choose their profession, and if the circumstances are difficult, they can work to change their circumstances. Scoffing, Mrs. Warren asks if Vivie wants to know what her circumstances were. Vivie says yes. Her mother’s vehemence and defiant attitude impresses her.
Vivie wants to defend her right to choose her path in life, but she does so by saying that everyone should have a choice about how they live. Angry at Vivie for trying to buck her attempts to exercise parental authority, Mrs. Warren prepares to show Vivie just how naïve she really is about the opportunities available to women and the poor.
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Mrs. Warren says that her own mother ran a fried fish shop and called herself a widow, but had four daughters from different husbands. Mrs. Warren and her sister Liz were good-looking, while their two sisters were ugly, but honest. One of her half-sisters, Jane, worked for low wages in a whitelead factory, where she handled dangerous materials used to make paint and died of lead poisoning. The other half-sister was seen as an example of morality, because she was an economical housewife with a husband who worked in a dockyard. They had three children and managed to live decently until he started drinking and stopped giving her money.
Mrs. Warren’s account gives a clear picture of the difficulties poor women faced in making a living without selling their bodies. Her mother augmented her small income as the owner of a restaurant by doing sexual favors for men in exchange for support, but she pretended to be a widow in order to escape society’s disapproval for sex out of wedlock. Moreover, Mrs. Warren’s two “moral” sisters met terrible fates. One tried to support herself without a man and died because of the working conditions she faced. The other linked her fortunes to a man by marrying, in keeping with society’s ideas of what a respectable lower-class woman should do—but she ended up impoverished once he stopped supporting them.
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Mrs. Warren and Liz both went to a church school, until one night Liz ran away. The people at the school warned her that Liz would end up by jumping off a bridge, but Mrs. Warren felt more afraid of working in the whitelead factory than of what Liz was doing.
When Liz runs away, the moral authorities at the church school assume that she has gone into sex work. They warn Mrs. Warren that this immoral choice will have terrible consequences and Liz will be driven to suicide. Yet Mrs. Warren fears the exploitative conditions that would face her in the workforce.
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Eventually Mrs. Warren went to work as a scullery maid and then as a waitress in Waterloo station, working long hours for low wages. One night when was very tired, Liz came into the bar to buy Scotch, looking elegant and well-dressed and with lots of money.
Mrs. Warren eventually finds exhausting work as a maid and waitress. This work is less dangerous than the work her sister Jane did and is available to her because she is pretty, but it is not nearly as well-paid as the sex work that allows Liz to afford luxuries.
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Vivie exclaims to hear about her aunt. Mrs. Warren says that Liz is a very good aunt to have: she lives respectably now and chaperones girls to dances. In the past, Liz always saved money, never let herself look like a sex worker, and always thought strategically.
Liz has always been able to have the manners of a woman of the upper class. Because of this, she was able to pass for a respectable woman once she became rich, even though she earned her money in the least respectable way possible. Although she once sold her own body and the bodies of young poor girls, she now watches over rich girls, protecting their respectability from sexual advances and preserving their virginity until they marry. This transformation shows how well Liz understood the hypocrisy of “respectable” society.
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That night in the bar, Liz had told Mrs. Warren to come to work with her instead of wearing herself out for other people’s profit. Liz lent her enough money to start out, then they both saved steadily and became partners. They set up a high-class brothel in Brussels, and treated the women well. Mrs. Warren says her brothel was a much better place for women to work than the lead factory.
Mrs. Warren presents selling her body as a way to escape being exploited by others. Even once she sets up a brothel herself and profits from other poor women selling their bodies, she does not see herself as becoming another force of exploitation. Instead she sees herself as helping women avoid even more dangerous and exploitative conditions.
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With keen interest, Vivie asks why Mrs. Warren chose the business she did, saying that saving money is the way to succeed in any business. Mrs. Warren laughs at the idea that you can save money in most of the professions open to women. She says that it is different for women with talents in music, theater, or writing; they can get work that pays well. But if you lack those talents, she says, your best opportunity (if you are good-looking) is sex work. As a waitress or shopgirl, a woman lets someone else profit off her good looks instead of profiting from them herself.
Mrs. Warren again attacks Vivie’s naïve idea that everyone has a choice about their way of life. She says that economic opportunities are few and far between for poor women. Although pretty women can be hired for other jobs that are less dangerous, they will still make very little money. The only opportunity that will earn a poor woman enough to be able to save is sex work, while poor women who are not attractive are doomed to terrible conditions like those faced by Jane.
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Mrs. Warren contends that there is little difference between prostitution and the way most respectable mothers bring up their daughters to attract rich husbands. She says that a marriage ceremony does nothing to make it any better. She says that no one wants to work to make a living, but they must do it. She says she has often pitied a girl who was putting up with a drunken client groping her, but that everyone puts up with unpleasantness in their work. She says it is ridiculous that pious people pretend that anyone would be attracted to working as a prostitute; it is merely the best opportunity open to a poor girl.
Mrs. Warren compares the way mothers prepare young women to attract a husband who will pay for her daughter’s care to the way a brothel owner prepares a prostitute to attract a client who will pay for sex. To her mind, the religious ceremony of marriage does nothing to change the economic nature of the transaction. In both cases, a woman is being sold to a man. Mrs. Warren contends that prostitution is work like any other, and no one would choose to put up with the unpleasantness of work if they didn’t have to, but both wives and prostitutes put up with unpleasant men, because that is their “work.”
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Mrs. Warren says she has always felt it was wrong that there weren’t other opportunities for women, but that is the way of the world, and she would have been a fool not to take the best opportunity open to her. Vivie asks her mother if she is sure she wouldn’t have advised her daughter to work in a factory or as a barmaid, if they were poor now. Mrs. Warren scoffs at this idea, saying that those professions entail a life of starvation and slavery that wears away one’s self-respect. She says the way to succeed is to respect and control yourself, not to listen to the foolish preaching of moral people.
Mrs. Warren sees a society that forces women to work for low wages in dangerous conditions or suffer the stigma of working as sex workers. She rejects the idea that prostitutes should be looked down upon and stigmatized. Instead of a lifetime worrying about making enough money to live on, prostitutes choose the best option available to them. Even if society declares sex work immoral and unrespectable, it pays enough to allow prostitutes to preserve their self-respect.
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Mrs. Warren continues, saying that only way for a woman to live well is “to be good to some man that can afford to be good to her.” If the woman has the same social status as the man, then she can get him to marry her. Otherwise, sex work is her best option. Mrs. Warren says any respectable woman knows that this is true, but will not express is straightforwardly like Mrs. Warren just has.
Mrs. Warren suggests that marriage, like prostitution, is only worthwhile if it guarantees a comfortable life, and marrying a poor man gives little security. So, while marriage is a good option for a woman in the upper classes, a lower-class woman is better off as a sex worker getting paid by rich men than she is as the wife of a poor man.
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Gazing admiringly at her mother, Vivie praises her for her strength. She asks if Mrs. Warren never had any doubts or felt ashamed. Mrs. Warren answers that it’s expected by society to feel ashamed. She says Liz always got angry at her for talking about their work and society’s hypocrisy. Liz was a perfect lady and Mrs. Warren is vulgar. Mrs. Warren says she was glad to see from Vivie’s pictures that Vivie was growing up to be like Liz. But for herself, she was never ashamed, because she felt proud for having managed to become affluent and for having run a brothel where the women were well-treated. Of course, she would never talk about such things in public.
In a society that considers sex workers immoral, it is expected that sex workers will be ashamed. Liz saw that by failing to pretend to believe in society’s ideas about sex workers, Mrs. Warren was marking herself as someone unrespectable and thus dangerous for Liz’s own respectable self to be seen with. Mrs. Warren assumes that her daughter is similarly eager to play by society’s rules, because she sees that Vivie does not dress flashily and carries herself like a woman of the upper class.
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Mrs. Warren yawns and says she is ready to go to sleep. Saying she will not be able to sleep, Vivie goes to the door and opens it. She exclaims at the beauty of the night. Mrs. Warren tells her not to catch a cold, and Vivie replies that this is nonsense. Mrs. Warren says that everything she says is nonsense according to Vivie, but Vivie replies that their conversation has completely changed the way she looks at her mother. Mrs. Warren shakes her head, saying that she sees that Vivie had thought her full of nonsense before. Mrs. Warren continues, saying that Liz always thought her full of nonsense too, and now she imagines Vivie will treat her the way Liz used to. Vivie and Mrs. Warren embrace. Mrs. Warren asks if she brought Vivie up well, and if she will be kind to her from now on. Vivie agrees, and Mrs. Warren says she gives her daughter a mother’s blessing.
Vivie has changed her attitude towards her mother because she respects her for bucking traditional ideas about morality to make a living and admires her for not being ashamed of her past. But Vivie has not given up her opposition to her mother’s authority over her. Mrs. Warren assumes that Vivie, like Liz, looks down on her because she is vulgar and does not pretend to be ashamed to conform to society’s expectations. In fact, Vivie admires opposition to a hypocritical status quo, and she sees the belief that parents can tell their children what to do as just another one of society’s unfounded prejudices.
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