GeorgeBernard Shaw was an Irish playwright, polemicist, and critic whoinfluenced the Western culture, politics, and theater. He was born in1856 and died in November 1950. His influence extended from the 1880suntil his demise and beyond. He wrote more than 60 plays throughouthis lifetime, including major works like Man and Superman, SaintJoan, and Pygmalion. His works incorporated both historical allegoryand contemporary satire making him the prominent dramatist of hisgeneration. At the beginning of his career, Shaw’s novels werequite dismal and publishers rejected them. He then switched topolitics joining the Fabian Society that wanted to transform England.At the group, he managed to work on some book reviews, music, theatercriticism, and art. He went on to become one of the most renownedplaywright and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925.
Pygmalionis among the best work done by George Shaw. It was christened after aGreek mythological character and first presented to the public in1913. It has five acts that play an immense role in the business ofhuman relations in a social globe. Professor Higgins believes he cantrain Eliza Doolittle to excel for a duchess in the garden of anambassador. The play targeted the rigid class system and championedwomen’s autonomy. The major themes in this play include appearanceand identity, social class and manners, femininity and gender roles,and education and excellence.
Asdescribed, the play encrusts several themes such as marriage,appearance, and family. Nevertheless, the most conspicuous one is theartificiality of class distinctions that was common throughout theVictorian period. Shaw utilized two societal classes, that is, thewealthy and the working class to illustrate this theme. Somecharacters in these classes strived to go beyond their respectivestatus while others wished to stay within their ranks. All throughthe play, Clara Eynsford Hill together with her mother portrayed awealthy family, yet in reality, they were facing financial struggles.While Mrs. Hill practiced a high-class life dressing stylishly, herdaughter tried to explore the novel fashions and slang. In spite ofthe energies, Clara did not fit in. The two ladies, especially Clara,tried rigorously to adapt to the wealthy class in vain. Out ofhumiliation, they vainly tried to be recognized within this socialstatus so that they could also be perceived and treated as wealthyand high class.
AlthoughEliza strives to improve her social class, her motives were notsimilar to Hill’s. In Act II, Eliza approaches Higgins forassistance. She wanted to be the lady in the flower shop and not avendor. To achieve this, she had to be genteel. Her move was more ofnecessity rather than appearance. Before seeking assistance, Elizahad vulgar manners, raggedy clothes, and a cockney accent. Suchcharacters could not guarantee her the anticipated class. By takingher chances, she succeeds. Eliza changes her clothing, manners, anddialect to draw attention from the wealthiest people in London duringthe ambassador’s ball. Eliza managed to fool Nepommuck, aself-acclaimed expert of languages, to think she was an ImperialHungarian. Just like that, she was a lady.
Asexemplified by the women above, membership into a higher class wasprimarily based on physical appearance. The people made judgmentsaccording to the physical aspects. In other words, the way onedresses, talks, and walks determines his/her social status. Eliza wasaccepted into this social class due to her beauty, dialect, fashion,and elegance. She did not have to utter a word or display anyoutstanding knowledge to amaze anyone. Once she opened her mouth,Eliza was able to win the hearts of the rich. She was accepted intothis social imminently. However, Eynsford Hills neither had anextraordinary beauty nor fluent English to impress the wealthy. Claraattempted to start up an intelligent conversation to fit within thissocial class. However, her efforts were fruitless irritating herlisteners instead. Perhaps this was because they used appearance tomask their limited knowledge (Lovett 67).
Somepeople were quite comfortable with their social status. For instance,Mr. Doolittle who was a meager drunkard and dustman was quite happywith his social status. He did not comprehend the need formiddle-class morality. Furthermore, he did not mind the treatment ofthe different social classes. However, Doolittle was angered byHiggins’s joke. She felt belittled by the silly joke and in theprocess went on a rant (Shaw 98).
Theplay highlights the dynamic nature of the society. As exemplified bythe characters, the society is engulfed in demoralizing andridiculous perceptions that bring about the different classes. Thewealth associated with their rich counterparts and dislike the poor.Such behaviors are common even in the current globe. Choosing membersaccording to the external beauty rather than internal reasons is alsoa normal trend (Lovett 98). As portrayed by the characters, thehigh-class members have particular habits, distinctive accent as wellas manners. On the other hand, the lower class members lack wealth asdepicted by their clothing. Apart from that, they lack morals asdepicted by Mr. Doolittle. The middle-class individuals are betterthan the lower ones. However, they do not possess the sufficientwealth to be considered high class. The fact that the communityjudges one another depending on the outward traits illustrated howartificial and shallow it is. Pygmalion was quite effective inshowing the ills of the society.
Lovett, Ivy. "Pygmalion." 20 May 2015. 25 August 2016.
Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion. Pygmalion. London, 1913.