George Bernard Shaw, in his book Mrs. Warren’s Profession, exemplifies life in the Victorian era and puts meaning into the concept of being a ‘new woman.’ The story limelights Vivie Warren, recently graduated and is now faced by tough life subjects including marriage, morals, independence, and fighting for women’s rights. Introduction to Praed and Frank gets also done in the first act. They are both eager to marry Vivie, who is uninterested in finding a husband and is more concerned with her work and studies.
Her mother, Mrs. Warren, plays a considerable role as she engages Vivie in a debate about what it means to be independent and successful as a woman in their time. They seemingly don’t argue, but in the end, Vivie opts to cut her mother off completely. Though seemingly harsh, Vivie does this to be her own woman and to embody the image of a new woman.
Vivie’s description brings to life her modernity as she becomes described to be in a “plain, business-like dress” with “a fountain pen and a paper-knife.” On meeting Praed, she shakes his hand firmly, and neither acts nor comes across as helpless or dandy, as most women became taken as at the time. Such actions paint her as a woman with strength and confidence.
Vivie’s characteristics also become depicted through her interactions with her mother. Mrs. Warren is described as a more conventional woman but also has characteristics of a new woman. Her past is explained, marked with a tonal change from prior when she gets depicted as morally unhinged by growing up as a prostitute.
Mrs. Warren attempts to save money honorably but fails and is taken in by her sister. She then becomes a sex worker and can save enough money to become independent and support herself. Though she comes clean that her work was not morally upright of her, she claims justification of that life decision in the success it brought for her.
At first, Vivie believed that her mother’s past made her a bad person but eventually came to terms with the fact that her mother never had much choice growing up. Vivie builds up respect for her mother and even terms her as a ‘wonderful woman’ who is stronger than England.
This understanding is short-lived as Vivie discovers that her mother still manages brothels. Vivie parts with her mother from this point on as her mother knew that her business was morally wrong and continues working in the industry with Crofts as her business partner. Vivie, in the last scene, tells her mother her refusal to accept her money as she knows it got earned immorally.