Written Task II
Ilanne Reijnierse v6a
George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ tells the story of a low-class flower girl called Eliza Doolittle, who one day encounters a phonetics professor named Henry Higgins. He believes that he can change Eliza’s speech and posture in such a way, that it would be plausible for Eliza to be a duchess, therefore Higgins wagers his friend Colonel Pickering on it. Higgins' bet is accepted by Pickering as well as by Eliza, since she will get to live in Higgins’ luxurious house. Once Eliza has moved in with him, Higgins puts a lot of effort into transforming Eliza’s Cockney accent into the speech of proper English. This written task will discuss how and why the text might differ from the original if it had been written in a different time, place or language or for a different audience.
The story of Pygmalion is set around the mid to late 1800s in the city of London. The reason why Shaw chose for this setting is quite obvious, since it is the time period in which he lived and London was his birthplace. However, the setting is also important for the story. To begin with, in this period of time the pattern of social mobility was changing. If you were born in a lower class family, you could climb up the social ladder by working hard, like Eliza. Secondly, the position of women in society was changing. Women were considered more than just the child-bearers, their importance in the family life was finally acknowledged. This is shown in the story of Pygmalion when Eliza marries Freddy and she tells him that she wants to care of him.
The story taking place in England is likewise crucial to the setting. England had a more solid social structure at the time than for example America, so it was easier to spot the circumstances that kept Eliza from climbing up the social ladder. For instance, one could easily notice that Eliza was from a lower class due to her accent, an example of this is: ‘Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Furthermore the Flower Girl’s appearance gave away a lot about her way of living too. She wore ‘a shoddy black coat’1 and her boots were ‘much the worse for wear’1. Lastly the Flower Girl did not have manners, as she was not taught by her low-class parents. This is for example shown by the way she tries to solicit money from a well-groomed gentleman (Colonel Pickering).
Now if the book had been written in India in the 21st century, Eliza Doolittle would have been an entirely different person. Raised with dissimilar values and a different view on the world, Eliza would be the result of the Indian society. India is known for its caste system, a system that treats people based on...