She protects her from the men, believing her innocent of sex. When Frank says he has made love to her, Kitty replies, "Now see here: I won't have any young scamp tampering with my little girl" (232). Later Kitty says to Vivie, "What do you know of men, child, to talk that way about them?" (242). She criticizes her daughter for showing independence and putting on airs (243) and tries to control her, saying, "Your way of life will be what I please, so it will" (243). In sum, this shows a conflicting worldview between mother and daughter, with the experienced mother believing that the innocent daughter is straying from the right path.
After accepting her mother briefly, the end shows Vivie breaking with Kitty completely. Their views of choice and emancipation are different. Kitty feels like she was determined into prostitution, and is proud of having made it so well. Vivie's view is different: "Everybody has some choice, mother" (246). Vivie hates the notion of fate and believes in freedom. "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances" (246). It is this viewpoint that drives her into professional life and away from romance. The key is that Vivie, in her innocence, does not understand the world yet. Her choice for emancipation is naive, according to Kitty, and based on different goals. Kitty wants respectability and realizes that her daughter, as a lady with an education, would be a fool to do prostitution (250). But she hangs on to an outdated view: "Don't you be led astray by people who don't know the world, my girl. The only way for a woman to provide for herself decently is for her to be good to some man that can afford to be good to her" (251).
Vivie rejects this in her emancipated self-sufficiency. She finds her mother's idea of life repulsive and boring. Instead, she pursues the new form of emancipation: business work. It is exactly this which allows her ultimately to reject her mother's allowance and set herself up financially to live alone. She regains her self-possession (270). In the final interaction, the mother persists in claiming that Vivie does not understand: "youve been taught wrong on purpose: you don't know what the world is really like" (282). Kitty thinks her daughter is deluded in innocence. In the end, Vivie remains innocent, going her own way forward, but toward a different kind of experience. She parts without feeling like it will make any difference, disowning Kitty, choosing to remain distant from the woman she has never known. They both must work, she says, "But my work is not your work, and my way not your way" (284). Johnson says, "Vivie thus rejects her mother, not because of her unconventional sexual politics, but because she strives for upper-class respectability" (95). She interprets this "New Woman" renunciation as hypocrisy. But one can read it not as a drive for respectability, which is in fact Kitty's main view, but as a drive for independence. Vivie finds her mother a contradiction she cannot endure, and turns to her new emancipated, self-determined, and innocent path.
In sum, the relationship between innocence and experience plays out between the mother and daughter. This theme is crucial today, for the same types of dynamics continue to shape the relationships between mothers and daughters. Often parents and children have competing worldviews. This negotiation is difficult for both, just as it is in Mrs. Warren's Profession. The play teaches its audience both to hold a sympathetic view for the underprivileged, who are forced to assume possibly shameful roles. At the same time, it shows that worldly experience is not all it is cracked up to be. Innocence is an option. Self-determination is possible. Women can work hard to make it in the professional world, even if it means rejecting the traditional view of a parent and resisting its influence. This theme remains relevant for the contemporary world.
Gilmartin, Andrina. "Mr. Shaw's Many Mothers." In Fabian Feminist: Bernard Shaw and Woman. Edited by Rodelle Weintraub, 143-55. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1977.
Johnson, Katie N. Sisters in Sin: Brothel Drama in America, 1900-1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Shaw, Bernard. Plays Unpleasant. New York: Penguin…