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pygmalion social structure

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Introduction

Pygmalion - report The class structure in Victorian England was based upon the extremes of wealth and poverty, virtue and crime, and privilege and exploitation. The strict hierarchy began at the very peak with the Monarch (queen empress Victoria), followed by those with titles; royal dukes, non-royal dukes, earls, viscounts, barons, baronets, knights and the broad range of gentry who possessed no titles but were wealthy. From there came army officers, vicars or parsons of Church of England, university professors, lawyers, and doctors. In their own scale, those at the upper end had title relatives; the lower had connections with mercantile classes. All of the above, created only 2% of the population, yet held most of England's wealth. The other 98% had no position in society or any equality of status among them. ...read more.

Middle

Men belonged to the public world of politics and business, while women fit into the private life of the family home - away from the world of work. Also, when married, women had no independent legal status - she had no right to money, could not buy property, had no claim to her children, and had to move with husband wherever he went. In the play 'Pygmalion' by Bernard Shaw, these societal expectations are both reflected and challenged. We are presented with these social mores in the opening scenes of the play when an upper class mother buys the flower-girl's (Eliza Doolittle's) flowers, and her daughter believes this to be 'sixpence thrown away'. This presents the attitudes of some of the well off citizens towards the lower class workers, and the persistence of Eliza to sell her flowers shows how desperate her economic life is. ...read more.

Conclusion

Mrs. Pearce is a little higher, but still vulnerable as a working class citizen under Higgins. Clara and her mother are typical members of the upper class, as they do not work and they dress accordingly. Mrs. Higgins is in this same class but appears to use her motherly presence to guide Higgins as much as she can. She is by no means a submissive female figure in the play, confronting Higgins on many occasions, such as when Higgins 'invited [Eliza] to [her own] at-home day'. Also, Pickering and Higgins' male characters are empowered by being the one to hold Eliza's social status in his hands. Higgins has control over what is to happen with the 'squashed cabbage leaf', and affects most female characters in the play somehow. This supremacy of male characters supports the Victorian England social mores, and the rising of a lower classed citizen confronts them. Shaw has both supported and challenged the class structure and roles of males and females in his play. ...read more.

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