The Comparison Of Social Classes Through Analysis Of Pygmalion

1366 words - 5 pages

The classic play Pygmalion written by George Bernard Shaw is his analysis of the prevailing society of the time. The title comes from the Greek myth of Pygmalion, who was a renowned sculptor and created a flawless statue whose beauty remained unmatched. At the sculptor’s request the God put life into the work of stone and thus the statue Galatea came to life. Accordingly Shaw adapts the myth to suit his own purpose. The statue in this case is Eliza Dolittle, who sells flowers in Convent Gardens. Since she is from the lower strata of the society, her accent is marked by a distinct flavor of its own, thereby pointing out that social hierarchy of that time was clearly dependent on public behavior, which included the way one spoke. Professor Henry Higgins plays the role of Pygmalion, who teaches Eliza how to talk properly (since he is an expert in languages, particularly accents) along with instilling good manners and a proper code of conduct in her. In the end Eliza, who has learnt how to be a ‘lady’ ends up with a flower shop in the upper section of the society but is married to a poor man who is studying to be an accountant. Yet she makes a good living and that is the moral of the story. It is interesting to note that class and manner play an important part in this play. Thus one will attempt to show through the characters of Eliza and Henry that class in the sense of social hierarchy does not equate with class in the sense of manners, tact and dignity. Eliza as mentioned earlier is one the principle characters of the play, along with Higgins, comes from an extremely impoverished background. She speaks the gutter language: “Aint no call to meddle with me, he aint” (1). She is not an epitome of good manners by any definition of the word and her accent leads her to believe that she is a second-class citizen of the country. Nonetheless she is proud of being herself and reiterates that fact over and over again: “I’m a good girl, I am” (2). Henry Higgins is an expert at phonetics and takes up the task of transforming Eliza by teaching her how to talk in a proper manner along with helping her understand that behavior in the genteel world is quite different from that witnessed on the street. Thus in essence Pygmalion is about manners and class because Shaw does not believe in the pretentious class barriers that surrounded England at the time. In fact he propagates equal opportunity and education for all and shows that if one puts one’s mind to it, anyone can attain a respectable position in society. One does not have to be born in a particular class to reap the benefits that come with it. It is hard work and a good upbringing that change one’s life and nothing else. The real difference between a flower girl and a lady as per Eliza’s character is not the social class that limits but the public behavior that they demonstrate. Consider the first act for example where Eliza wheedles some money out of Henry’s friend the Colonel. When Eliza’s friends suspect...

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