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Discuss The Ways In Which Your Chosen Texts (Shaw's "Pygmalion" And Rhys' "Wide Sargasso Sea") Exploit The Traditions And Conventions Of Their Genre Both Formally And In Terms Of Content.

1644 words - 7 pages

I have chosen to base my answer to this question on "Wide Sargasso Sea" by JeanRhys and "Pygmalion" by G.B Shaw. Both authors were aware of the traditions andconventions that governed literature as a whole as we shall see, and although theywere written in different literary era's, similarities can be drawn between thesetexts.Shaw's Pygmalion is titled 'A Romance in Five Acts.' This play is hardly yourtypical romance, there's no love story and neither protagonists fall in love with eachother. This perhaps is our first introduction to what has become known as a'Shavian Paradox....a delight in turning all kinds of truisms and commonplacesupside down.'The mythical inspiration behind this play can be found in 'Ovid's Metamorphoses'a 'collection of myths,' and tells the story of Pygmalion, a sculpture, who'scornful of women falls, in love with his perfect statue,' Venus answers his prayers and the statue is given life so Pygmalion can marry her. Shaw's version is not however a direct translation, whilst there is a transformation, Shaw's tale does not end with romance. Shaw's 'Pygmalion' is Henry Higgins a fanatic phonetician and his 'statue' is Eliza Doolittle, a working class cockney flower girl, the story is centred around a bet made that 'in three months I (Higgins) could pass that girl (Eliza) off as a duchess.' Shaw's intention was not to recreate an old love story, his concern lay with 'the role and power of the artist and the autonomy and rights of the statue.' This can be illustrated if we look to Act Five where both Eliza and Higgins are desperately trying to assert themselves with Eliza saying of Higgins 'I can do without you: Don't you think I can't and Higgins saying of Eliza 'I createdthis thing out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden, here Shaw demonstrates how the 'artist' endeavours to exercise his power over the 'statue' andthe 'statue' tries to defend her autonomy.Shaw was an 'experienced dramatist and drama critic and would havebeen aware of the traditions and conventions that governed his genre, he was notafraid to both use and abuse them. Shaw's Pygmalion conforms to the 'classicalstructure' using five Acts to divide the action, perhaps used so Shaw could ensure that the Ball Scene where Eliza wins Higgins' bet, is not the climax. As mentioned before Shaw was not interested in producing a Cinderella type fairy tale, he wanted to raise issues and make his audience think. Shaw was among a number of authors at the time such as 'Henrik Ibsen' to write plays about 'serious moral issues' as opposed to the 'frothy pieces of fairy tale nonsense.' This use of 'realism' is applied throughout the text; the instructions for the sets are detailed, so as to ensure their 'realness,' 'Morris wallpapers, and the Morris chintz window curtains..' Here the effect is to draw the reader into this fabricated world so as to further understand the situations presented in them. Shaw was a 'Fabian' and a 'feminist,'these beliefs are apparent in...

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