Monday, December 26, 2011

Pygmalion

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“In the play Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw satirizes the English society- its class system and its values”.


I agree with this statement. I believe that GB Shaw uses humour, sarcasm and characters of this play to satire English society. The main characters he has chosen for this are Eliza Doolittle, Alfred Doolittle and the Eynsford Hills. Eliza plays the roll of the poor flower girl who is turned into a middle class society citizen. Alfred Doolittle is Eliza’s father formerly a dustman, but now a wealthy but unhappy man. The Eynsford Hills have the upper class status but the wealth of a middle class family.


Eliza, being one of the main characters, is used to satire the class system and the way that people are ranked. Professor Henry Higgins has transformed this lower class common flower girl with an amusing cockney accent into a charming, well-mannered, young lady. The poor flower girl is now accepted in the higher society and can mingle easily with them because she speaks and behaves like them. No one, at any stage, suspects her of being a flower girl from a much lower class. Neppomuck, the Hungarian ex- student of Higgins theorises that Eliza is a Hungarian princess because she speaks English so perfectly. This shows how well Eliza has carried out her task, by leading someone to believe she is of royal blood instead of a common girl from the gutters of Drury Lane. But after the “experiment”, Eliza is left in a difficult situation. She regrets that she ever came to Higgins, and wishes that she had stayed in Drury Lane. Her origins are still working class but she also has the traits of an upper class lady. She has grown accustomed and settled into her new life which makes it hard to return to her previous way of life, but does not have the money to live in her current lifestyle. Though her father, Alfred Doolittle, now has a lot of money, he cannot provide for Eliza because he is responsible for supporting other people who are less fortunate than him.


Alfred Doolittle is a man of no morals and believes that life should be lived to the fullest. He was a common dustman, until he unexpectedly inherited a large amount of money from an American millionaire, Ezra D. Wannafeller, who had mistook a sarcastic remark by Henry Higgins about Doolittle being “the most original moralist in England”. Alfred does not like middle class morality because he is satisfied with what he has. For example, when Colonel Pickering offers him ten pounds instead of five pounds, Doolittle refuses, as he is not interested in saving money for the future and would rather spend five pounds on drinks than spend five pounds and save another five pounds. Alfred Doolittle wants no worries or responsibilities. He has been married several times before, but cannot seem to keep a stable relationship. He also kicked Eliza out of the house when she was only a teenager with no money, leaving her to fend for herself. GB Shaw shows the irony of this poor man who can only just live on the money he earns becoming a middle class man in society who is well off - but Alfred does not want this life. He wishes to be the poor old dustman with no responsibilities because now, Alfred is expected to not only provide for himself and his new wife, but also for many other “relatives” and friends who are not as fortunate (or unfortunate from Doolittle’s point of view) as him.


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GB Shaw demonstrates that this man who can earn three thousand pounds an year by lecturing would rather throw it all away and go back to his life of poverty with no cares or responsibilities.


The Eynsford Hills are from a high society and are respected by many people, even though they have little wealth. This is because of the high class they were born in. They were born in the upper class but struggle to live on the money they have. Their status is high but their wealth is low. Those from the middle class could possibly have been richer than the Eynsford Hills but do not earn the respect that they are given.


In conclusion, these are the reasons I agree with the statement, “In the play Pygmalion, GB Shaw satirizes the English society- its class system and its values”. GB Shaw has shown through these characters that the class system and values do not always mean everything. A person of higher class than another may be wealthier and respected, but that does not necessarily mean that they are richer in heart and soul.





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