Character Analysis Mrs. Whitefield


"All timid women are conventional," says Ann to Jack Tanner at one point in the action. Mrs. Whitefield is timid and she is conventional. Shaw uses her to develop his ideas of parent-children repulsion, a theme which he had introduced into one of his novels, Immaturity, wherein Robert Smith is described as being revolted by the "solemn humbug" which his parents inflict upon him. Thus it is that Mrs. Whitefield complains to Tanner: "I don't know why it is that other people's children are so nice to me, and my own have so little consideration for me. It's no wonder I don't seem able to care for Ann and Rhoda as I do for Tavy and Violet." Tanner's devastating comment goes completely over her head: "I suspect that the tables of consanguinity have a natural basis of natural repugnance."

Mrs. Whitefield is the prototype of the Victorian mother and Womanly Woman. Advanced ideas, such as those expressed by Tyndale in his Belfast address, only disturb and bewilder her. Yet, as Shaw tells us in the stage directions, she has an "expression of muddled shrewdness" and a "squeak of protest in her voice." She is aware that she is looked upon as being spineless and ineffectual. But her shrewdness, however muddled, makes it possible for her to see that her daughter is predatory; and the "squeak of protest" is translated into action of sorts since she ardently hopes that Jack, who sees through Ann also, will marry Ann. After all, Tavy is too nice a boy to be made to suffer as Ann's husband.

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