George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion
G.B Shaw believed that people should not be limited by their birth,
environment or speech. With reference to Act 1 & Act five of
Pygmalion, show how Eliza finds her status affected by all of these
At the time George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in 1912, many people
were troubled with accents that prevented them from reaching high & in
act 1, Eliza's character is an example of this.
In act 1, we see how Eliza was very limited by her environment, her
job, & her speech by the way that she was treated differently for who
The society at the time Pygmalion was written was very set & if you
were born into a lower class family, you were not seen as anything
better than that. Eliza was a lower class flower girl whose speech was
not Standard English & difficult to understand. She came from the slum
streets of London & was as clean as she could afford to be but to the
upper class people she was 'worthless' & 'dirty'.
Higgins was an upper class man who studied phonetics. He was written
as someone who believed in the class system & that he should not
associate with the likes of 'Eliza' who was 'just a flower girl' & a
'disgrace to the English language'. The play does reflect the society
at the time & Shaw incorporated the way people treated other people
into the play quite effectively.
The Aynsford-Hills were a middle class family but whose status was
slowly sliding down. In act 1, 'the daughter' has Higgins's view of
lower class people & doesn't treat Eliza nicely just because she is a
Shaw wanted to include his thoughts on society, language & drama into
Pygmalion. He thought society was unfair & that 'no one should be
limited by his or her birth, environment or speech'. In the play, he
shows how people can be very shallow about other people just because
they are not as wealthy. He wanted to make people think whilst sitting
in the audience & wanted to put across what he thought were the bad
things going on in the world & the problems with the structured
society so it was a good idea for him to write certain characters that
treated people badly because they were less different to themselves.
Shaw also believed that everyone abused the English language &
pronounced words incorrectly. He tried very hard to change the
spelling system of the English language & so it was quite decided that
he should write one of the main characters as an expert of phonetics,
which was the study of the sound of language.
In act 1, Eliza thought that the way she came across was normal &
acceptable but to many people it wasn't. Part of Shaw's' plot of the
play was to make people realise that anyone can speak properly if they
took the time & effort to try & it can affect people in different
ways. Eliza is insulted by Higgins & feels threatened & intimidated by
him. 'You ought to be stuffed with nails you ought'. Eliza doesn't
feel that she has done anything...