Mrs. Warren's Profession

Mrs. Warren's Profession Quotes and Analysis

"Your love's a pretty cheap commodity, my lad."

Mrs. Warren, page 53

Mrs. Warren points this out to Frank after he complains that she is approaching marriage in much to commercial of a way. She, Crofts, and the Reverend Samuel Gardner have suggested that Frank cannot marry Vivie because he does not have the financial stability to support her. When Frank retorts that he can offer her love, Mrs. Warren adheres to convention in insisting that marriage is a mercenary negotiation.

"Don't think for a moment I set myself above you in any way. You attacked me with the conventional superiority of a mother: I defended myself with the conventional superiority of a respectable woman."

Vivie, page 64

This is Vivie's response to her mother's accusation that she is a "stuck-up prude" (64). Neither of the women is, or wants to be, conventional, but in this quotation, Vivie recognizes that certain aspects of convention are so engrained that they are hard to escape. Mrs. Warren has been pretending to be a conventional mother and Vivie has been pretending to be a conventional lady, disapproving of her mother's promiscuous past. But both of these attitudes have been acts, and only when Mrs. Warren lapses into her native accent can Vivie see that for the truth.

"Do you think I was brought up like you? able to pick and choose my own way of life? Do you think I did what I did because I liked it, or thought it right, or wouldn't rather have gone to college and been a lady if I'd had the chance?"

Mrs. Warren, page 64

Here, Mrs. Warren speaks for all prostitutes, in line with Shaw's perception of their profession. She is begging Vivie not to judge her for her decision to support herself this way, since she didn't have any better options. She has provided Vivie with financial support so that she could attend school and choose a profession for herself, a privilege her mother never had.

"If people arrange the world that way for women, there's no good pretending it's arranged the other way. No: I never was a bit ashamed really."

Mrs. Warren, page 68

Vivie has asked her mother whether she feels ashamed of her profession, having worked as a prostitute and then run a brothel for young girls. Mrs. Warren's answer points to the need for independence and assertion of power for women, in a world where very little power was afforded them. She despises the convention of pretending that women are respected and honored, when really they must sacrifice their own interests no matter which path they choose. Her choice demonstrates a disdain for convention and she refuses to apologize for it.

"What sort of mother do you take me for! How could you keep your self-respect in such starvation and slavery? And what's a woman worth? what's life worth? without self-respect!"

Mrs. Warren, page 67

This is Mrs. Warren's response to Vivie's question of whether she wishes she had made a living some other way than prostitution. Since the only other options open to her were to work for a man either in a factory, a bar, or some other low-paying position, Mrs. Warren responds with indignation. Her answer is ironic because, according to conventional ideas of morality, being a prostitute indicates a lack of self-respect. However, she turns that perception on its head by pointing out that for her, independence is equal to self-respect, and the only way for her to achieve that independence was through prostitution.

"Well, what's he to do? No profession. No property. What's he good for?"

Crofts, page 78

Here, Crofts questions Frank not only as a partner for Vivie, but as a person in general. In doing so, he reveals one of the problems with a society that has such specific gender roles and expectations. It is not only women who suffer from such standards: men, too, are thought worthless if they do not adhere to these gendered conventions. Because Frank has no money and does not own anything, Crofts can't see his worth as a human being.

"If you're going to pick and choose your acquaintances on moral principles, you'd better clear out of this country, unless you want to cut yourself out of all decent society."

Crofts, page 83

This is Crofts' justification to Vivie for the way he makes his living, by operating brothels. She is disgusted that he should have chosen this profession in order to make money. He responds that everyone who has any money in the country has acquired it through morally questionable means. The irony here is that "decent" society is not decent at all; the only people who might exercise Vivie's morals are the ones who suffer in the lowest ranks of society, like her mother's half-sister, Anne Jane.

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they cant find them, make them."

Vivie, page 64

This is Vivie's stance before she hears her mother's life story. Mrs. Warren has made the tentative argument that her circumstances necessitated turning to prostitution, but Vivie dismisses this idea with the above quotation. Her mind changes, however, after Mrs. Warren describes her struggle to survive in contrast to the privileges Vivie has been granted. Vivie's original opinion, therefore, seems narrow-minded and naive. This was Shaw's intention: Vivie's rationale was that of many people in the upper levels of society and was offered as justification for discriminating against prostitutes.

"I am my mother’s daughter. I am like you: I must have work, and must make more money than I spend. But my work is not your work, and my way is not your way. We must part. It will not make much difference to us: instead of meeting one another for perhaps a few months in twenty years, we shall never meet: that’s all."

Vivie, page 102

This is Vivie's explanation to her mother for why they must never see each other again. It hearkens back to the theme of the "New Woman," while drawing attention to the different ways the mother and daughter achieve this ideal. Neither is conventional, but while Mrs. Warren's work depends on the prostitution of young girls and the money of men, Vivie depends only on herself. To get to this point in her education and career, she has been dependent on her mother's income, and she resents that dependency. So in order to be completely independent, she must sever that tie. In doing so, she demonstrates her practicality over any sentimentality toward her mother or their relationship.

"I always wanted to be a good woman. I tried honest work; and I was slave-driven until I cursed the day I ever heard of honest work. I was a good mother; and because I made my daughter a good woman she turns me out as if I were a leper. Oh, if I only had my life to live over again! I'd talk to that lying clergyman in the school. From this time forth, so help me Heaven in my last hour, I’ll do wrong and nothing but wrong. And I’ll prosper on it."

Mrs. Warren, page 104

This is Mrs. Warren's response to Vivie's rejection of her as a mother. She has worked hard and practiced self-control in order to provide for Vivie her whole life, but now wishes she hasn't. This reveals that her intentions were not selfless; rather than rejoicing that she has been able to raise a successful, independent daughter, she resents Vivie for failing to recognize her hard work and for refusing to depend upon her.