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Themes of Pygmalion

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Samia Farooq

on 18 March 2014

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Transcript of Themes of Pygmalion

Themes of Pygmalion
In terms for morality nothing is expected from a poor person whereas everything is expected from the middle class.
“I can’t afford morals” “I have to live for others and not for myself: that middle class morality.”- Doolittle speaking to Pickering and Higgins
The first and most potent item of middle class morality is the obligation of men to protect and foster women regardless it is needed or not.
• “I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady out of me. I’m not fit to sell anything else.”
Eliza realizes that when she was poor and she sold flowers she was able do as she pleased. Now, that she is middles class it would be unacceptable to sell flowers, so she is forced to sell herself in aspects of marriage.
• “Done to me! Ruined me. Destroyed my happiness. Tied me up and delivered me into the hands of middle class morality.” - Doolittle
Mr. Doolittle’s accusation that “middle class morality” has destroyed his life. Now he is forced to live for others, unlike before, when he was able to live off others. The idea that the middle class has more morality is exclaimed as a deceptive outward appearance.

Pygmalion's all about turning an uneducated Cockney flower girl into a duchess through the handiwork of her "sculptor," Professor Henry Higgins.
Result of transformation: Her manners, behavior, and diction all changed.
These changes serve as a mask for the development of self-respect that Eliza undergoes.
Eliza Doolittle rises to a higher ranking not only due to expertise of Higgins and Pickering, but also through her own development as a woman.
Because Higgins only charts "Visible Speech," he forgets that there are other aspects to human beings that can also grow. He himself lacked the inner growth capabilities.
“How frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It’s filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul.” –Higgins
The truly important transformation Eliza goes through is not the adoption of refined speech and manners but the learning of independent and a sense of inner self worth and she decides to make a statement for her own dignity against Higgins' insensitive treatment that allows her to leave Higgins.
This explains why Higgins begins to see Eliza not as a mill around his neck but as a creature worthy of his admiration.
Shaw's play of transformation asks: however much one changes one's appearance, can anyone really ever change?

In an age of growing standardization known as “the Queen English”, Pygmalion points to a wider range of varieties of spoken English.
language can separate or connect people, degrade or elevate, transform or prevent transformation. Language, we learn, doesn't necessarily need to be "true" to be effective; it can deceive just as easily as it can reveal the truth.
Language is closely tied with class in Britain. Good speech=high social class
Shaw believed one’s refinement of speech is completely subjective characteristic of social identity, as his play suggests.
Bernard Shaw utilizes Eliza's cockney speech as derogatory towards British society, though this same criticism is cast upon the upper class, whose sole judgment relies on speech.
Bernard Shaw signifies that it is speech alone that makes the difference between a flower girl and a duchess, therefore endowing “a fine satiric thrust at the artificiality of social ranking".
He clearly states in the preface of the play that England needs a “phonetic enthusiast” and this is the reason for making Professor Higgins the hero of this play.
Speech does not become measures of virtue, personality, or internal worth as Higgins used ill
suited language himself.
Society & Class
In Pygmalion, we observe a society divided, separated by language, education, and wealth.
The general sense is that class structures are rigid and should not be interfere with, so the example of Liza's class mobility is most shocking.
Shaw preferred social poise and considerateness to mere crudity, harboring even some "limited admiration for the dignified code of manners of the Victorian period," though he found some its artificiality cramping (Crompton 143).
The whole experiment is about social class and the ideas of British society.
Shaw’s original thought behind Pygmalion was to show the old-fashion ways of 20th Century British class system.
If a girl were to simple act as if she was a lady she could be passed off in society as a totally different class with no regard to where she had come from.
Eliza had learned the ways of the upper class and was therefore accepted. It is also displayed through the Eynsford Hill family.
Pygmalion is a play about society and the ways that society viewed people.

Two of the play's main characters—Higgins and Pickering—are academics.
Shaw in some sense pits their intellectual intelligence against the wits of others, like Eliza.
characters like Eliza, Mrs. Higgins, and Mr. Doolittle lack the kind of education that Higgins and Pickering have had, the play reveals them to be smart in their own ways.
Eliza, for example, turns out to be a quick learner and a very good pupil, easily winning Higgins' bet for him.
Mr. Doolittle is the only character who voices criticisms of "middle class morality" and give voice to the problems with the Victorian social hierarchy.
Moreover, the play shows some of the downsides of Higgins' overly intellectual learning.
Higgins approaches other people with a kind of academic detachment.
He sees everyone as subjects for his linguistic studies, rather than as people with feelings of their own. He hurtfully neglects Eliza as a person and sees her merely as an experiment.
Higgins lacks basic sympathy and empathy, what might be called emotional intelligence. The play's most intelligent character is thus, in another sense, its least learned.
Appearance & Identity
Pygmalion explores how social identity is formed not only through patterns of speech, but also through one's general appearance.
Much like speech, one's physical appearance signals social class.
As Pickering comments in Act Four, many noble people believe that one's appearance displays one's natural identity and character, thinking that "style comes by nature to people in their position."
Somewhat similarly, at the end of the play, Higgins tells Eliza that he cannot change his nature. Self cannot really be changed.
But the importance of appearances in the play reveals that identity often is changeable, and does not come naturally so much as it is performed or put on like a costume.
Eliza is the most obvious example of this. As she wins Higgins' bet for him, she fools people into assuming that she is from a noble background by changing her appearance. Even before her complete transformation, her own father fails to recognize her in act two only because she has changed clothes and bathed.
As Eliza tells Higgins and Pickering in Act Five, she believes that she has entirely forgotten her original way of speaking and behaving: she thinks that she has really transformed and cannot return to her old life.

Higgins always controlled and influenced Eliza on how to act and he really controlled every aspect of her life.
Higgins is so quickly wrapped up in his project, which he immediately starts to treat Eliza as an object, raw material for his designs.
Higgins takes a strange pleasure in tempting Eliza, as if he is scared she will run away. It seems as though he may be attached to her long before he pleads for her to stay.
Eliza’s remarkable abilities are simply a source of entertainment for Higgins.
Higgins and Pickering talk about Eliza as if she were a pet, a performing animal.
Her training, however, makes her unable to go back to her old ways. She is no longer being manipulated actively; rather, the effects of the manipulation are unshakeable.
In Pygmalion, we see different types of influence and control:the teacher training his student, the artist shaping his creation, the child playing with his toy.
Shaw wants us to observe the consequences of control, to see how these changes occur.

Questions Please
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