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Examine how Shaw uses comedy to draw attention to the absurdities of class structure in ‘Pygmalion.’ Contrast this with another of your texts.

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Introduction

Examine how Shaw uses comedy to draw attention to the absurdities of class structure in 'Pygmalion.' Contrast this with another of your texts. 'Pygmalion' by Bernard Shaw adapts the myth of 'Pygmalion,' a legendary sculptor, who falls in love with a statue he has made of the goddess Aphrodite. The goddess brings the statue to life as Galatea, and Pygmalion marries her. Shaw decided to adapt the myth for the modern stage depicting Higgins as a contemporary Pygmalion and Eliza as his creation. Yet Shaw's play differs from the myth in avoiding its marriage plot and emphasising Eliza's 'assertiveness and independence.' Shaw wanted Pygmalion to be both socially and morally instructive. Beneath the comedy lies 'a satire on the superficiality of class distinctions.' Bernard Shaw founded the Fabian society, a socialist, political organisation devoted to transforming Britain into a socialist state. This is how Shaw described the Fabian Society; 'The Fabian Society seeks to establish equality as the universal relation between citizens without distinction of sex, colour, occupation, age, talent, character, heredity, or what not...The Fabian Society not only aims at complete political equality as between the sexes, but their economic independence. It advocates the explicit recognition by legally secured rights or payments of the value of the domestic work of women to their immediate domestic partners and to the State as housekeepers, child bearers, nurses and matrons.' ...read more.

Middle

Clara's behavior is no better that Eliza's but she is respected because she is a lady and expects to be treated like a lady. It is obvious that Clara has no manners in the way in which she talks to others. She talks to her brother, Freddy almost as if he is no relation of hers, just a stranger trying to find a cab for them. She says; 'And what about us? Are we to stay here all night in this draught, with next to nothing on? You selfish pig-' The audience laughs at Clara's expense because we find her rudeness and her seeming to have no manners entertaining. She would be played as a very snooty character with a very upper class accent which is useful to portray her rudeness when she talks to others in the way she does. Clara demands respect but doesn't earn it. Clara is a very fragile character who depends on others. Whereas Eliza is a very witty, independent and strong character the complete opposite to Clara. Higgins makes assumptions about characters according to their accents. He says of Doolittle's language; 'Sentimental rhetoric! That's the Welsh strain in him. It also accounts for his mendacity and dishonestly.' This is a comic caricature and stereotyping according to accent and language. It reveals the assumptions people make according to the accent and dialect of a person. ...read more.

Conclusion

He's rude to her because of her accent and her class although, ironically he does become very fond of her by the end of the play. When Doolittle 'sold' Eliza to Higgins he says he can't afford morals but later in the play he complains about having to adopt middle class morality. He describes middle class morality as having ' to live for others and not for myself'. We laugh at his response to becoming middle class because it is ironically not what we would expect, one would expect the opposite. It is also ironic because when he 'sold' Eliza he demanded money from Higgins and bargained the price with him. This links in with money and class. The result of the play is not what we would expect because traditionally comedies end with marriage. In my opinion the ending almost ruins the comic flow of the play. Eliza is left stuck between two classes. She is neither of upper class nor of lower class, she speaks like a lady but isn't one. We are left to make our own decision about the ending of the play but we assume that she marries Freddy. Maybe the ending is suggesting that people of different classes don't mix well, but this is unlikely because of Shaw's Fabian ideals, it would go completely against them. So we are left to assume that it is morally correct for Eliza to end up with Freddy rather than to keep on living with Higgins and Pickering. ...read more.

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