Mrs. Warren's Profession
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The role of women in Victorian marriage and Shaw's representation of Vivie's sexuality
Men who could afford to get married in the Victorian era could make use of “laws that gave him total control of his wife's person—and her fortune”. Victorian women were expected to maintain a poised and dignified manner, and to be obedient to their husbands' requests. The character Vivie defies the Victorian expectations of an obedient woman. She is educated and entirely self-sufficient. During the play she resists two marriage proposals, reflecting her reliance on her work ethic and hard-headed approach to life. Shaw represents Vivie as being the product of a type of gender reformation. This reformation results in a character who is asexual and "permanently unromantic".
Throughout the play, the boundary between sexual desires and proposed marriages is blurred; for example, Frank flirts with Mrs. Warren as well as Vivie. Mrs. Warren's companion Sir George Crofts also proposes marriage to Vivie despite his relationship with her mother. Critic Petra Dierkes-Thrun has argued that these examples illustrate the way in which Shaw
critiqued the ideological and economic system that produced her [Mrs. Warren], attacking the problematic double standard of male privilege and the deeply entrenched objectification of women, which Shaw saw pervading all levels of Victorian society down to its most basic nuclear element, the family.
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- The role of women in Victorian marriage and Shaw's representation of Vivie's sexuality