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Comparison of representations of femininity in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

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Introduction

Comparison of representations of femininity in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. In Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, we see two main female characters in each work. The works both use these characters to present questions against the general attitude towards women at the time. Antoinette is an outsider in both communities she lives amongst in a similar way Eliza is shown to be an outsider in the surroundings she is brought into by Higgins. In act one Eliza is introduced as a flower girl. Her major concern here is about being mistaken for soliciting, instead of selling flowers 'They'll take away my character and drive me on the streets for speaking to gentlemen.'. She has a fear that her character will be destroyed by such an indictment: Here Shaw reflects a real fear felt by women of that class at that time. The daughter's remark to Higgins shows her fear at being out amongst disreputable classes 'Dont dare speak to me.' In act two when Eliza goes to Higgins' home she establishes that she has a right to be treated like a lady 'If you was a gentleman, you might ask me to sit down'. ...read more.

Middle

I should have thrown the fire-irons at you.' Eliza shows how much needed this recognition was to her when she says to Pickering 'the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. ... I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will.' The dialogue here between Higgins and Eliza shows a turning point for Eliza, she is now calmer and it is Higgins who is agitated and loses control. Eliza holds power over him as he pleads with her to come back. In Wide Sargasso Sea the character of Antoinette narrates the first part of the novel. We see in the opening pages the sinister nature of the language, we see her loneliness and isolation. Her and the other women in her family are affected by the fact that they are caught between two communities in the island, her mother uses the word 'Marooned' to emphasise this. Her mother is not prominent in her life and it seems the black nurse Christophine is is the dominant woman in Antoinette's life 'Christophine found me when it was nearly dark, and I was so stiff she had to help me get up.' ...read more.

Conclusion

The background of racial unrest in the novel reflects the time at which Rhys was writing. At the time the black civil rights movement was starting in America women and black people identified their respective lack of freedom in society, this is reflected in the novel as Antoinette feels she identifies more with the black community due to their lack of freedom. George Bernard Shaw reflects the attitudes of men towards women in the time he wrote the play. The fact that Eliza could be picked up and used like a doll. Shaw uses class as another division between the characters, the fact that Eliza is working class adds to her vulnerability. Her violent reaction to Higgins in act four is representative of the aggressive, often, violent protests of the suffragettes at the time. These differences represent the differing time in which the works were written, what was happening politically and socially during the authors lives. The class and race elements put the two main characters in different situations also. Both women though share the fact that they conform, or attempt to conform, to the modes of behaviour that are expected of women in society those conventions considered feminine. The reaction of these characters against those conventions is part of the feminist message in the two works. ...read more.

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