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Class and Gender conflict in Pygmalion

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Introduction

An Analysis of Class and Gender Conflict in Pygmalion Summary: Presents that Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion explicitly comments on issues of class and gender. Analyzes Shaw's use of language and symbolism to achieve that goal. "Pygmalion is a serious analysis of class and gender conflict." Bernard Shaw's play, entitled Pygmalion, transcends the nature of drama as a medium to be utilised for sheer entertainment value. Shaw's play powerfully comments on the capacity for the individual to overcome the boundaries established by systems of class and gender. Dominant assumptions and expectations, may essentially prevent an individual from becoming socially mobile within a seemingly rigid hierarchical social structure. However, Liza, the protagonist utilises language as the tool which enables the her to escape the confines of the lower class and to be regarded as a human of a certain degree of worth within society. As Liza transforms from flower girl to duchess, the audience is witness to the many ways that an individual can be dehumanised through the socialisation process. Issues of both class and gender arise from the tensions within the play that surround the interactions between Higgins and Liza and the viewer is able to openly question the values that exist within a society that judges the character of a person on the basis of wealth and education. Henry Higgins represents the upper class of society, those that are expected to be both educated and wealthy. ...read more.

Middle

Are you quite well"' (Shaw, 2003:93) It is her newly acquired mastery over the English language that has transformed Eliza from a flower girl into somebody who is fit to be `a consort for a king.' (Shaw, 2003:104) Also, the narrative expectations that existed within society at the time that Shaw wrote Pygmalion, typically involved romance and traditional conventions of marriage. The viewer is expected to hope for a happy ending, and in many cases, as far as women were concerned, such endings usually resulted in the women finding happiness within the marriage to the man she loves. Such defined gender roles that are prevalent within such literature, and within the nature of society as a whole, are in some ways subverted within Pygmalion. An audience might expect Liza to grow to love Higgins, as he comes to represent the `saviour' figure who has rescued her from a fate that potentially would render her as trapped within the lower class of society. As a common flower girl, Liza is without a voice or opinions to which anybody of class would have the desire to listen. Despite the social class within which an individual may function, one is essentially responsible for their own sense of morality and common decency. Shaw highlights this in the contrasting behaviour demonstrated by Higgins and Liza. In the final act, Liza makes Higgins aware of her plan to teach phonetics as a way to become financially independent. ...read more.

Conclusion

Or rather he tries to make from one kind of doll- a flower girl who cannot afford the luxury of being human- another kind of doll- a duchess to whom manners are an adequate substitute for morals.' (Bentley, 1967:83) What we observe, therefore, is that Shaw's play is essentially a comment on the capacity for society to govern both the role of an individual, as well as the way that an individual is perceived by other members of the social system. The importance of language is identified as a means to ascertain power within a judgmental and class driven social structure. Further, the playwright enables the viewer to gain an accurate insight and understanding into the ways that social roles can be gendered, both with regards to the society of Shaw's time and of contemporary society. Liza is an independent woman at the closing of the play, when one takes into consideration that she possesses an assertive sense of free will and a determination to maintain her strength of character. Ultimately, Liza's insistence on remaining true to herself is a positive ramification of a transformation process, that in itself presented many moral questions to the perceptive audience. The protagonist has confronted the obstacles imposed on her by social conventions, with regards to both gender and class stereotypes, and has essentially deconstructed the boundaries that had previously prevented her from fulfilling her own capabilities and sense of self worth. ...read more.

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4 star(s)

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An excellent essay which uses appropriate quotes throughout in order to support statements.
Closer language analysis is needed in places.
Well structured and logically argued essay which remains focused on the question.
Fluently and eloquently written essay which shows insight and evidence of wider reading.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 26/06/2013

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