본문 바로가기
  • Home

Mrs Warren’s Profession: Shaw and Marx’s Criticism of Capitalism

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2012, 25(2), pp.121-160
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Eom Tae-yong 1

1한림대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

To-date, most academic papers published in Korea dealing with Mrs. Warren’s Profession have focused on female problems, and on the New Woman. Attempts have rarely been made to expose the fundamental cause of the problems, though the author indicates it socio-economically in the drama. George Bernard Shaw, the author, was influenced by political economy of Karl Marx, and younger Marx’s humanistic philosophy often peeps out in many of Shaw’s dramatic works. First of all, this play evokes, by introducing the case of Mrs. Warren’s mother and her four daughters, Mrs. Warren and her siblings, that women lived tied up with the double bridles of capital and patriarchy in modern society. The drama also tells a past story that Mrs. Warren and Liz, her full sister, could not help falling into the fatal way of prostitution while striving to escape the double bridles, which Shaw proposes is not a simple economic deviation of capitalism but an intrinsically structural phenomenon. The drama suggests that an inevitable economic choice in the capitalistic system is accompanied by a change of consciousness. In light of the slice of society in which even the highest group of the feudal hierarchy is absorbed in capitalistic income much more than in noble values, the ideas of the bourgeois class turn out to be the ruling ideas of the modern period. This play addresses abstraction and fragmentation of human beings, too, which Marx discussed first and then Georg Lukács established. Praed, an aesthete, considers the value of romance and beauty as the only criterion of life, while Frank is abstracted and fragmented by money as well as Mrs. Warren is. Vivie declares that she will break the relationship with her mother, Mrs. Warren, who has disgusted her daughter due to too-regarding attitudes to value of money. It is noticeable, however, that intelligent capital of Vivie, a New Woman, has been acquired from the filthy money Mrs. Warren earned by prostitution. Thus, Vivie’s ability and destiny can be compared to the historical process of transforming primitive capital into modern capital. Mrs. Warren’s engaging in prostitution can lead to incestuous danger to Vivie. The prevailing prostitution and free sex being traded for money in capitalist society necessarily brings about danger of incest, especially of metonymic incest. It reminds us that Marx declared masculine and bourgeois economy to be a cause of sexually-improper deviation. Shaw intended to combine and manifest his political-economic concern and literary passion by dint of the genre of drama. It may be the authentic message of Shaw that we can never enjoy spiritual happiness, rich or poor, under the capitalistic system.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.