Short summary - Mrs. Warren's Profession - George Bernard Shaw

British literature summaries -

Short summary - Mrs. Warren's Profession
George Bernard Shaw

Action one

Vivi Warren is twenty two years old. She is alive, resolute, self-confident, cold-blooded. Having grown up far from her mother, who had lived all her life in Brussels, then in Vienna, and who had never allowed her daughter to come to her, Vivi never knew anything about the flaw: the owner of the brothels, Mrs. Warren, never skimped on the means of maintaining and educating her daughter. And now, having been educated in Cambridge, Vivi does not bother with romantic nonsense, like most girls of her age. Element Vivi calculations - for engineers, electricians, insurance companies. Sent by her mother to London for a month and a half to visit museums and theaters, she preferred to spend all the time in the office at Honoria Fraser on Chanceri Lane, helping with calculations and doing business. Its main virtue is practicality, she «loves to work, loves to get money for her work».


And now, having returned to Mrs. Warren’s cottage in Surrey to meet her mother, she doesn’t waste time in vain: «I came here to exercise my freedom, and not rest, as my mother imagines. I hate rest, »says Vivi, an old friend of his mother, fifty-year-old architect Mr. Preud, who came to visit both of them in Surrey. After a brief conversation with Vivi, Pride realizes that the girl is far from the ideal that her mother sees, but prefers not to share her concerns with the girl.

Finally, Mrs. Warren appears - a prominent, loudly dressed woman of about forty-five, vulgar, "orderly spoiled and domineering ... but, in general, a very representative and good-natured old swindler." Mrs. Warren arrives with her companion, the 47-year-old baronet, Sir George Croft, a tall, powerful man, representing "a wonderful combination of the most base types of businessman, sportsman and socialite." From the first acquaintance, he, having heard about the successes of Vivi, falls under her charm, while realizing all the extraordinary nature of her character. Pride warns Mrs. Warren that Vivi is clearly no longer a little girl, and should be treated with all possible respect. However, she is too confident in herself to heed his advice.


In a private conversation, Croft confesses to Preud that he is strangely attracted to Vivi. Besides, he wants to know who the girl’s father is, and he urges Prade to ask if Mrs. Warren mentioned anyone else’s name. In the end, he himself could be the father of Vivi, however, he admits to Preud, Mrs. Warren, firmly decided not to share her daughter with anyone, and all his questions have still remained fruitless. The conversation is interrupted: Mrs. Warren calls everyone in the house to drink tea.

Among the invitees is also Frank Gardner, a twenty-year-old young man of good appearance, the son of a local pastor. From the first of his enthusiastic words, it becomes apparent that he is not indifferent to Vivi; Moreover, he is sure that she reciprocates him. He is cheerful and careless. Having a high regard for his parent, «Pope», pastor Samuel Gardner, he makes fun of his father in every possible way, not embarrassed by the audience.

A pastor in his fifties is a "pretentious, noisy, annoying person" who is not able to inspire respect either in the role of the head of the family or in the role of a clergyman. Rev. Gardner, by contrast, is not enthusiastic about Vivi: since her arrival, she has never visited a church. The son appeals to his father, quoting him his own words that his son, in the absence of intelligence and money, should take advantage of his beauty and marry some person who has enough of both of them. In response, the pastor expresses doubt that the girl has as much money as his wasteful son needs. Angry at his father’s malice, Frank hints at the past «exploits» of the pastor, in which he himself admitted to him so that his son would not repeat his father’s mistakes. In particular, he also mentions that once the pastor was ready to buy his letters from some waiter for money.

The conversation between father and son is interrupted by the appearance of Vivi, whom Frank introduces to the pastor. With exclamations, «Why, it's Sam Gardner!» Please tell me, he became a pastor! »And« I still have a bunch of your letters »also includes Mrs. Warren. The pastor is ready to fall through the ground with shame.

Action two

The second action opens with a discussion between Mrs. Warren, Frank, Pastor, and Croft. Mrs. Warren announces her reluctance to see the «dissolute boy,» lacking the means to support his wife, flirting with her daughter. She is echoed by Crofts, clearly pursuing her own goals, as well as a pastor tormented by vague suspicions. Frank pitifully begs everyone not to be so mercantile and let him look after Vivi. After all, they love each other, and Miss Warren will marry not by calculation, but only by love.

However, Vivi herself can stand up for herself. Left alone with Frank, she agrees with him in his unflattering reviews of Mrs. Warren. However, in response to his sarcastic attacks against the whole company and, in particular, Crofts, she plucks the arrogant young man: "Do you think that in old age you will be better than Crofts if you don't get down to business?"

At the same time, the Crofts were talking in private with Mrs. Warren. Crofts invites her to consider the possibility of his marriage to Vivi. Why not? After all, he has the title of baronet, he is rich, he will die earlier, and Vivi will remain «a spectacular widow with a round capital». Mrs. Warren replies only with indignation: "My daughter’s little finger is more precious to me than you with all your giblets."

The male part of the company is accommodated by Pastor Gardner. Left alone, the mother and daughter can not restrain mutual disagreements: Mrs. Warren claims that the daughter must live with her and lead her lifestyle, including enduring her companion Croft. Vivi defends the right to lead his life. «My reputation, my social status and the profession that I have chosen for myself are known to everyone. But I don’t know anything about you. What kind of lifestyle are you inviting me to share with you and Sir George Croft, please tell me? »She throws to her mother, demanding that she reveal the name of her father. She threatens to leave her mother forever if she does not answer her request. «How can I be sure that the poisoned blood of this life-burner does not flow in my veins?» She says, referring to the baronet.

Mrs. Warren is in despair. After all, it was she who helped her daughter rise, become a man, and now she "lifts her nose in front of her." No, no, she cannot bear it. And Mrs. Warren tells her daughter about her difficult childhood and youth, full of hardships, with her mother and three sisters. One of the sisters died from a disease received at a factory of white lead, the other vegetated in poverty with three children and her alcoholic husband. Mrs. Warren - Kitty - and her sister Lizzy, both prominent, dreaming of being like a lady, went to church school until Lizzy, smart and adventurous, left home to never return.

Once, barely keeping her feet from the overwork of the waiter in the bar at Waterloos Station, Kitty met Lizzy, dressed in furs, with a whole bunch of gold in her purse. She taught Kitty the mind, and, seeing that her sister had grown up as a beauty, offered to do craft together and save up for an institution in Brussels. After thinking and deciding that a brothel is a more suitable place for a woman than the factory where her sister died, Kitty accepts her sister's offer. After all, only by such a craft, and not by miserable pennies, earned by hard humiliating labor, you can earn on your own business.

Vivi agrees that the mother acted quite practical, sharing the craft with her sister. It’s practical, although, of course, «any woman should just be disgusted to make money this way.» Well, yes, disgusting. However, in her position this was the most profitable business, objected Mrs. Warren. «The only way for a woman to properly provide for herself,» she tells her daughter, «is to have a man who can afford to maintain a lover.» The girl is fascinated by the story of her mother, her directness and lack of such habitual hypocrisy. Mother and daughter break up for friends at night.

Action Three

The next morning, in a conversation with Frank Vivi, is tender and peaceful. Now she no longer shares his opinions about her mother - after all, she did so out of despair, hopelessness. The idyll is disturbed by the appearance of Croft, who wants to exchange a few words with Vivi in private. As expected, Crofts offers the girl a hand and a heart. Of course, he is not young, but he has a fortune, a social position and a title. And what can the boy Gardner give her? Vivi, however, flatly refuses to even discuss his proposal.

The exhortations give no result, and only when Crofts reports about the money that her mother gave and loaned to her ("There are a few people who would support her like me. I have invested at least forty thousand pounds in this matter»). Vivi is perplexed: "You want to say that you were a partner of my mother?" It seemed to her that the business had been sold, and the capital had been put into the bank. Crofts dumbfounded: «Eliminate the business, which gives thirty-five percent of the profit in the worst year! Why on earth? »

The girl begins to be tormented by guesses. Mother’s companion confirms her concerns: «Your mother is a great organizer. We have two guest houses in Brussels, one in Ostend, one in Vienna and two in Budapest. Of course, besides us, others also participate, but in our hands most of the capital, and your mother is indispensable as the director of the enterprise. »

Vivi is upset - and this is in the matter of such a property she is invited to participate! Crofts consoles her: «You will not participate in them more than you always participated» - «I participated? What do you want to say? "-" Only that you lived on this money. This money was paid for your education and for the dress that you are wearing. » Vivi makes excuses: she did not know where the money came from, but she feels vile. She rejects the proposal for marriage anyway.

Crofts cannot restrain his anger and, seeing Frank come up, with the words: «Mr. Frank, let me introduce you to your half-sister, the daughter of the Honorable Samuel Gardner. Miss Vivi is your half-brother, »leaves. Vivi is dead, everything seems disgusting to her. She informs Frank of her firm and final decision to leave for London, to Honoria Fraser, on Chancery Lane.

Action four

The fourth action takes place in the aforementioned office, where Frank is waiting for Vivi to leave for tea. He won poker in a whole handful of gold, and now invites her to dine and have fun in the music hall. He admits that he cannot live without Vivi, explaining that what Croft said cannot be true, because he has sisters, and he feels towards them far from that feeling as to her. Vivi’s answer is full of sarcasm: isn’t it «the feeling, Frank, that brought your father to my mother’s feet?» She is sure that the brother-sister relationship is the most suitable for them, and she values only such relationships.

Preid enters - he went to say goodbye before leaving for Italy. He persuades Vivi to go with him to «imbue with beauty and romance,» but in vain - for her in life there is no beauty and romance. Life for Vivi is life, and she accepts it as it is. She reveals a terrible secret to Preida - because he does not know what her mother is doing. The Pride is amazed, but despite everything, he is ready to maintain fraternal relations with Vivi.

There is a knock on the door - this is Mrs. Warren. She is crying: her daughter fled to London, and she would like to return her. She arrived despite the fact that Croft didn’t let her in, though she didn’t know what he was so afraid of. When Vivi enters, her mother hands her a sheet: «I got it from the bank this morning. What does it mean?". «This is my money for the month,» the girl explains. «They sent me the other day, as always.» I just sent them back and asked to transfer them to your account, and send a receipt to you. Now I will support myself. » She informs her mother that Croft told her everything. «You only explained what led you to your profession. But you didn’t say anything about the fact that you still haven’t abandoned her. »

In vain are the exhortations of the mother, Vivi is determined to reject the capital acquired in this way. She cannot understand why her mother will not give up her craft now that she is no longer dependent on him. Mrs. Warren makes excuses as she can: to die of boredom, that’s what she’s afraid of, because she’s not suitable for any other life. And then it’s profitable, and she likes to make money. She agrees to everything, she promises not to bother her daughter, because constant travels will not allow them to be together for a long time. And when she dies, her daughter will finally get rid of her bored mother.


However, despite all the tears of Mrs. Warren, Vivi is adamant - she has a different job and a different road. The mother’s argument that she wanted to become a decent girl and mother, but circumstances didn’t allow her, has the opposite effect - now Vivi accuses her mother of hypocrisy: she herself would lead only the life that she considers correct. She may be cruel, but no one has the right to appeal to her daughter or any other duty. She refuses mother and her money. She refuses Frank, from all her past life.

When the door closes behind Mrs. Warren, Vivi sighs in relief. She decisively pulls a stack of papers toward her and discovers Frank's note. With the words «Goodbye and you, Frank,» she decisively breaks the note and plunges into the calculations with her head.