Bernard Shaw's Critique of Materialism

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 12:01   /   Views: 178
Bernard Shaw's Critique of Materialism

In the play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”, Bernard Shaw criticizes the “upper-class” for their materialistic Philosophies. The author demonstrates his criticism through two main figures; Mrs. Warren and Mr. Crofts who portray the role of materialistic beliefs in society. Both of these individuals share much wealth and believe money made them a “somebody”. Bernard Shaw uses Vivie, a character that has no materialistic desires at all to express his believes and opinions on materialism.

When Frank reveals his desire to marry Vivie in act two, Mrs. Warren protests heavily, partly because she does not want her daughter to be married to a person with little money and little property. We see these materialistic beliefs of Mrs. Warren more often when she tells Vivie about the importance of financial well being, not only to be able to support yourself, but to enable yourself to marry someone "worthy", meaning someone who could afford Vivie. Another aspect that identifies Mrs. Warren as a materialist is that she still pursues her profession as a prostitute. She could have quit the profession along time ago when her financial needs were satisfied but she is too greedy, wanting more money and luxury. “And then it brings in the money; and I like making money. No it’s no use: I can’t give it up-” (p. 113). Mrs. Warren is trying to defend her actions before her daughter. She's "explaining" to Vivie the ways of the world. On one hand, Mrs. Warren is admitting that what she is doing is wrong, but on the other hand she answers Vivie's questions about being ashamed by saying: "It's only good manners to be ashamed. It's expected of a woman" (p. 86). She is saying, "yes, I am ashamed, but only because I'm supposed to be". Mrs. Warren does not care about the immoralities of her work; making money is the only important thing to her.

Mr. Crofts is more materialistic than Mrs. Crofts. He believes that Vivie should marry him because he has wealth, he does not see a problem in being twenty-five years older or being disliked by Vivie. In the dialog he has with Vivie in the garden, he criticizes Frank for having “no profession, no property, what’s he good for?” (p. 94) Mr. Crofts suggests that a person with no professional skills, property, or financial well being is no good. Just like Mrs. Warren, Mr Crofts advices Vivie that a man with no wealth is not worth marrying. Mr. Crofts takes it even a step further. Through the words “what’s he good for?”, he suggests that people with no money are absolutely no use for anything, here Mr. Crofts looks down at Frank and believes he is something better because he has wealth.

Mr Crofts financially supported Mrs. Warren’s profession “There are not many men would have stood by her as I have. I put no less than £40000 into it, from first to last.” (p. 95) He invested and received 35% of her income. He tells Vivie this trying to impress her with money and what investments he’s capable of. He does not feel ashamed for using Vivie’s mother because he does not believe it was immoral, he purely thinks about the money that was earned, the only thing that has importance to him.

In the entire play Vivie is not once impressed by the materialistic believes of Mr. Crofts or Mrs. Warren. In the final dialog between Mrs. Warren and herself she expresses her point of view. “If I took your money and devoted the rest of my life to spending it fashionably, I might be as worthless and vicious as the silliest woman could possibly want to be.” (p.133) Vivie does not believe in showing off and spending money, especially not if a person has not earned the money himself. On page 98 Vivie is disgusted by Crofts materialistic philosophy and now also criticizes society for accepting these types of people. “When I think of the society that tolerates you, and the laws that protect you- when I think of how helpless nine out of ten young girls would be in the hands of you and my mother-the unmentionable women and her capitalist bully-”.

Bernard Shaw uses Mrs. Warren and Mr. Crofts to portray materialism in society. He uses a common, natural figure with no materialistic desires named Vivie to represent his own thoughts and believes. He connects materialism to greed and immorality, maybe suggesting that materialism never comes on its own. Shaw addresses his critic to all materialists and the society that tolerates them.

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