Pygmalion Spark Notes

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Pygmalion


Bernard Shaw's comedy Pygmalion presents the unlikely journey of an
impoverished flower girl into London's society of the early 20th century.
Professor Higgins proposes a wager to his friend Colonel Pickering that he can
take a common peddler and transform her into royalty. Eliza Doolittle is the
pawn in the wager. But little does Higgins know the change will go far beyond his
expectations: Eliza transforms from a defensive insecure girl to a fully confident,strong,
and independent woman. When the audience first meets Eliza Doolittle she is a flower girl
peddling at 11 PM in front of St. Paul's Church. The audience's first impression is one of
sympathy because she is dressed in rags and pedestrians are unkind to her. Higgins calls
Eliza "you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns,
you incarnate insult to the English language." (p. 21) The audience's sympathy is
intensified when we see Eliza's wretched lodgings. These lodgings are much contrasted to
those of Higgins in Wimploe Street. Not only does Shaw play on the audience's sympathy for
an impoverished Eliza, but also presents her insecurity to us. In the scene with the
taxi-man, she appears significantly defensive in her response concerning the cost of the
cab ride. Eliza feels humiliated by the taxi-man's sarcastic response to her. From the
start of Higgins and Eliza's relationship, Eliza is treated like a child. Higgins says to
her, "If your naughty and idle you will sleep in the back kitchen among the black beetles,
and be walloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick." (p. 36) Higgins treats her like this
for months until the audience meets her again in London society. Eliza's first test is at
Continues for 2 more pages >>




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