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The Individual vs. Society in Mrs. Warren's Profession Essay

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Often in life there is a conflict between what is good for the individual and the moral values placed upon the individual by society.  This is true of the characters in George Bernard Shaw's play Mrs. Warren's Profession.  Shaw clearly demonstrates that actions frowned upon by society are not necessarily evil so long as they benefit 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 daughte...


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...in 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 the character Vivie it can be clearly seen that he finds nothing wrong with breaking the rules placed on people by society, providing that it is for a good reason and not simply for self indulgence.  The conclusion could be drawn that Shaw feels that these morals are fine in a perfect society, but since we do not live in one they must be broken occasionally in order to attain a better life, providing that it is done only in moderation.


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