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Mrs. Warren's Profession

by George Bernard Shaw

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What are examples of hypocrisy in Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw?

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Many examples exist of hypocrisy in "Mrs. Warren's Profession" by George Bernard Shaw.

First of all, Mrs. Warren becomes a prostitute because she would rather work in a brothel than a factory with meager wages and poor living standards. She states in her conversation with her daughter, Vivie: ". . . Why shouldn’t I have done it? The house in Brussels was . . . a much better place for a woman to be in than in the factory where Aunt Jane got poisoned' " (act 2). Hopelessly, Mrs. Warren tries to explain to her daughter the reason behind her actions. Even though Vivie claims she is independent and modern-thinking, she cannot stand the idea of her mother as a prostitute or continuing to make money from the brothels she owns. Mrs. Warren emphasizes that she is a businesswoman and conducted herself in that manner. Shaw illustrates the hypocrisy between starving and dying as a factory worker as opposed to making money as a prostitute in control of one's own destiny.

Another incident of hypocrisy is that of marriage: " . . . as if a marriage ceremony could make any difference in the right or wrong of the thing! Oh the hypocrisy of the world makes me sick!" (act 2) Again, Mrs. Warren is speaking to Vivie concerning the moral view that having a marriage certificate makes sexual relations acceptable. She rationalizes that she and her daughter would have nothing if not for her business and that men are the weaker creatures. It is more valuable to be good to a man who can afford to take care of a woman rather to marry and be miserable and poor.

Lastly, Vivie shows hypocrisy in not accepting her mother even after she has been raised by the wealth that she now questions and wants no part of. If it hadn't been for her education and upbringing, she would not be able to deny her mother's money at the end of the play. However, the mother-daughter conflict exists throughout the play as Vivie cannot accept her mother's present lifestyle.

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The major examples of hypocrisy in the play Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw revolve around the situational irony of conventional morality and the very unconventional lives of the protagonists. While Mrs. Warren is unsentimental about sexuality, she professes conventional sentimentality about family relationships and middle class respectability (despite her profession). Vivie is almost diametrically opposed to her mother in this in that she is highly unconventional in her ideas of gender, family, and the professional roles of women but very conventional and easily shocked concerning sexual mores. Shaw himself sees hypocrisy as one of the results of conventional morality and censorship combined; he argues that social change and remedying of social injustice requires eliminating both:

“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”

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