Pygmalion





Pygmalion and My Fair Lady are a modern parallel of the story of Pygmalion, legendary sculptor and King of Cyprus, who fell in love with his own statue of Aphrodite. At his prayer, Aphrodite brought the statue to life as Galatea. George Bernard Shaw\'s play Pygmalion is the story of Henry Higgins, a master phonetician, and his mischievous plot to pass a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball. In order to achieve his goal, Higgins must teach Eliza how to speak properly and how to act in upper-class society. The play looks at "middle class morality" and upper-class superficiality, and reflects the social ills of nineteenth century England, and attests that all people are worthy of respect and dignity.
Shaw\'s "Pygmalion" is Henry Higgins, professor of phonetics, who, comes upon a homely flower-girl selling flowers in the streets, makes a wager with Colonel Pickering that in three months he can so transform her as to pass her off for a lady. To Higgins, this is but a task that he accomplishes, a wager that he wins; but in Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl, a new personality has been created. With the manners and speech of a lady, she cannot fall back into her old life, and with those ways has come an asserting will, which selects Henry Higgins, her "creator," as her mate. To Higgins\' dismay, he finds that his "laboratory case" has surged into all his life, with emotional entanglements he had not anticipated.
Throughout most of civilization, people have been divided into social classes. In a lot of different especially capitalist cultures there is an upper class rich, powerful and in control. Then there was a middle class, less comfortably off than the upper class, and certainly less powerful, but respected nonetheless. At the bottom there is the lower working class making up the majority of people, rarely having the necessities of life and never considered by other classes no matter how long or hard they worked on improving their situation. In the following essay, I will discuss whether George Bernard Shaw agreed with this distinction and division of society and how he exhibited his views through his renowned play "Pygmalion".
Throughout the play, ladies and gentleman are continuously recognized for who they are through different factors such as how they are dressed, their manners, how they speak, morality or their money. It is however noticeable that a combination of all factors is rarely to be found. For instance Henry Higgins although well dressed, well spoken and with money, has manners which could not be characterized as genteel. Alfred Doolittle (after acquiring some money) is well dressed, has some form of manners and could be classified as rich, yet is not well spoken. Nevertheless, when the maid opens the door to him she instantly perceives that he is a gentleman. So what really does make a lady or a gentleman?
Alfred Doolittle arrives at Wimpole St, in the second act, and doesn\'t even recognize his own daughter, Eliza, just because she has been washed and elegantly dressed.
Alfred: Beg Pardon, miss.
Eliza: Garn! Don\'t you know your own daughter?
Alfred: Bly me! Its Eliza.
This demonstrates that the working class was not used to washing and dressing up, which was customary for the upper class. The dissimilarity in the appearance of the upper class from the working class was so sensational that even someone who was your own flesh and blood could be naturally mistaken. This trend of depicting appearances goes right through to the end of the play, when on arrival at Mrs. Higgins\' house, Doolittle is mistaken for a gentleman by the maid, merely because of the way he is dressed
Higgins: Doolittle! Do you mean a dustman?
Maid: Dustman! Oh no sir, a gentleman.
The appearance of Doolittle is taken into main consideration when it comes to deciding what class he belongs to. The question is raised, what separates the classes really, if clothing can do so much for how someone is perceived. Apart from the way people dress, they are also defined by the way they speak.
In Pygmalion the way people converse is a very important part of the play, not least because the structure of it is