Literary analysis of "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw

to a Greek myth, Pygmalion, an ancient sculptor living on Cyprus Island, worshipped the goddess of love, Venus. The local

Literary analysis of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw



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surpasses her "creator" proves that Eliza always remains the same person on the inside. Pygmalion (the sculptor) resembles Higgins only on the surface, he builds the perfect woman, while Higgins simply gives a poor duchess an opportunity to change her image. Similarly, all Shaw's characters in "Pygmalion," change only on the surface (if at all); they remain the same people on the inside regardless of circumstances. As an unknown ancient writer wrote: "Popularity is an accident, money takes wings, those who cheer you today may defame you tomorrow, the only thing that endures is character."

Characters Professor Henry Higgins


Henry Higgins, forty years old, is a bundle of paradoxes. In spite of his brilliant intellectual achievements, his manners are usually those of the worst sort of petulant, whining child. He is a combination of loveable eccentricities, brilliant achievements, and devoted dedication to improving the human race. Yet he is completely socially inept; his manners are so bad that his own mother does not want him in her house when she has company, and his manners are so offensive that she will not attend the same church at the same time. Since manners have always been the subject matter of comedies from the time of Aristophanes, Higgins' view of manners differs greatly from his own actions. His use of phonetics to make a flower girl into a duchess does not mean that the play is about phonetics; the play concerns different definitions of manners, and thus Higgins' actions must be taken fully into account.Higgins is a confirmed bachelor, and this fact alone should rule out all popularizes who would create a romantic entanglement between Higgins and Eliza. In addition, he is so set in his ways that he announces to Eliza that if someone doesn't want to get run over, they had better get out of his way. To accomplish his aims, he will trample on anyone's feelings - whether that person be a flower girl in Covent Garden or a real duchess or a lady in his mother's elaborate drawing room. Thus, one of Higgins' claims to equality is not that he doesn't have manners (it is a foregone conclusion that he has none), but that he treats all people alike. However, he only thinks that he does; he is not as egalitarian and democratic as he likes to think that he is. When Higgins first meets Eliza in Covent Garden and is taking down her vocal sounds, he is extremely clever - so clever, in fact, that his horribly bad manners are accepted by the audience as being clever. In his tirade against Eliza, when he vents his wrath against her, we tend, on first hearing his tirade, to forgive him because he has such an admirable command of the English language as he simply rips to pieces a "guttersnipe" and "a squashed cabbage leaf." Note his superb language: "A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere - no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech . . . don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon." Anyone who can deliver such splendid invective is admired for his or her brilliant, spontaneous use of the English language, and especially when it is directed against so lowly a person as this flower girl from the slums. But in a play dealing with manners, no proper gentleman would utter such condemnations. Later, we find out that Colonel Pickering treated Eliza properly from the very first. Thus, in spite of Higgins' claiming to treat all people with the same manners, he certainly does not treat Mrs. Eynsford-Hill and Clara with such a display of invective, and both of these characters represent everything that Higgins abhors; they represent the worst sort of upper-middle-class hypocrisy that both he and Doolittle despise. But in spite of his bad manners, Higgins is clever, and we do admire his cleverness, even at the expense of a flower girl.else do we like Higgins? Because he is Shaw's creative rebel who floats through many of Shaw's dramas. Higgins rejects middle-class moralities. He admires do-nothing Doolittles for their honesty in asserting that they are the undeserving poor, he will devote his scientific skill to changing a flower girl into a duchess, he is ultimately interested in the soul of his creation (Eliza-Galatea) and not in her pronunciation, and he is devoted to improving the human race by his own scientific methods. And, last, we cannot deny his charm: Mrs. Pearce, his housekeeper, has often threatened to leave because of Henry's atrocious manners (improper language, improper dress, bad table behavior, etc.), but she is always charmed by him into remaining with him. Ultimately, Eliza is also so charmed by her association with Higgins (and Pickering) that she does not want to live with someone else. But if Higgins is charming, he is also a tyrannical bully; if he is devastatingly intelligent, he is also ignorantly insensitive to the feelings of others; if he is god-like in his achievements, he is childishly petulant in his wanting his own way; if he believes in his scientific methodology, he is also something of the intuitive poet; and if he is a man so confident of his aim in life, he is also a man so ignorant of his own personality that he really thinks himself timid, modest, and diffident. Thus, his appeal remains partly in the many contradictions that he is heir to.


's story of the flower girl from the slums who was taught to speak so properly that she was able to pass as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party is perhaps one of the best known works by Shaw, partly because of the popularity of the play which, in turn, inspired a more sentimentalized version in a popular movie and, later, became one of the world's most popular musical comedies, My Fair Lady, using Shaw's broad outlines, but turning the play from a study in manners to a sentimental love story between pupil and master.character of Eliza is best seen by the progression which she makes from "a thing of stone," "a nothingness," a "guttersnipe," and a "squashed cabbage leaf' to the final act where she is an exquisite lady - totally self-possessed, a person who has in many ways surpassed her creator. In the opening act, the audience cannot know that beneath the mud and behind the horrible speech sounds stands the potential of a great "work of art." This carries through the Pygmalion-Galatea theme in which a crude piece of marble is transformed into a beautiful statue. It is not until the third act, when Eliza makes her appearance at Mrs. Higgins' house, that we know that Eliza possesses a great deal of native intelligence, that she has a perfect ear for all sorts of sounds, an excellent ability at reproducing sounds, a superb memory, and a passionate desire to improve herself.the first act, Shaw takes great pains to hide all of Eliza's basic qualities. He shows her not only as a person who completely violates the English language, but, more important, he shows her as a low, vulgar creature - totally without manners. We see her initially as a low-class flower girl who vulgarly tries to solicit money from a well-dressed gentleman, Colonel Pickering, and then as a young girl who is vulgarly familiar to another gentleman (Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who ironically wants her to be familiar with him when she becomes a lady); last, we see her as a person who is obnoxious in her protestations when she thinks that she is about to be accused of prostitution. Thus, what Shaw has done is to let us listen to a flower girl who totally violates the English language and who is a total vulgarian in terms of language. The change in Eliza's pronunciation will come about because of Higgins' lessons in phonetics, but the important change, and the real subject of the play, is the change that will come about in Eliza's manners - something which even Higgins cannot teach her because he has no manners himself.arrives at Higgins' laboratory-living room for rather ironic reasons. She wants to adopt middle-class manners that both Higgins and her father despise. Eliza's ideal is to become a member of the respectable middle class, and in order to do so, she must learn proper pronunciation and manners. But then we notice that in spite of the original motive, Eliza's monumental efforts to master her lessons have their bases in the fact that she has developed a "doglike" devotion to her two masters - a devotion which Higgins will ultimately reject and which Eliza will ultimately declare herself independent of in the next stage of her development.both Acts IV and V, Eliza is seen as a completely transformed person, outwardly. She is poised, dignified, in control of her once spitfire temper, and she has rejected all of the old common vulgarity of her past life. She is no longer willing to be Higgins' creation; she now asserts her own independence. But it is an independence which demands values from life which Higgins cannot give her. Unlike Higgins, who wants to change the world, Eliza wants only to change herself. Unlike Higgins, who can and does stand apart from the common aspects of life, Eliza can be content with Freddy, who simply needs and wants her as a compassionate human being. And whereas Higgins can get along without anyone, Eliza and Freddy need each other. In contrast, Higgins will continue to try to improve the world, while Eliza will make a comfortable home for herself and Freddy.

(mythology) In Ovid

Ovid's narrative, Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory. According to Ovid, after seeing the Propoetides prostituting themselves (more accurately, they denied the divinity of Venus and she thus reduced them to prostitution), he was 'not interested in women', his statue was so fair and realistic that he fell in love with it. In the vertex, Venus (Aphrodite)'s fest

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