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How does Pygmalion highlight the importance of accent, manners and words in 1912?

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Introduction

How does Pygmalion highlight the importance of accent, manners and words in 1912? The Early 20th century was similar to the late 19th. Society was class based and reputation was the most prized possession of any upper or middle class citizen. Reputation was earned through class and politeness of manner, impressing and gaining the favour of those of your class and others. George Bernard Shaw, the author, would have known much about this system, as he was part of the Fabians Society, which was established to attempt equality between classes in England. Pygmalion is based on the importance of accent, manners and words, as Professor Higgins' aim is to pass Eliza off as a duchess. As Higgins says in act I "What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. I shall make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe". A duchess was one of the most elegant and regal positions in nobility. They had perfect manners, impeccable accents and styles of life that were greatly reputed to be the most glamorous in all of London, and could never thought to be imitated by a mere commoner. The first instance that exemplifies the importance of accent and manners is in Act I. ...read more.

Middle

Be off with you: I don't want you". This shows that his upper class snobbery means he doesn't care about what she has to say and thinks of her as an object. The life of the upper class could be tedious and unchallenging at times, so it is not surprising that his interest in Eliza changes. "Yes: in six months-in three if she has a good ear and a quick tongue --I'll take her anywhere and pass her off as anything!". With this he is beginning to treat Eliza like an animal, using her for entertainment and to boost his own ego and, in time, his reputation; but this also showing how important manners, words and an accent can be, it implies as long as she has those, she can be accepted by any class. Higgins way of speaking to people seems to incur resentment towards him. "Oh you've no heart in you: you don't care for nothing but yourself". Some upper class people however were polite to those of lower classes. A good example of such a person is Colonel Pickering. Pickering uses a charming polite manner towards everyone he meets. As a response to being bothered by a low, putrid flower girl, asking him to buy a flower in Act I, he simply replies "I'm sorry I haven't any change", as opposed to being irate and impatient like Higgins. ...read more.

Conclusion

"How do you do Mrs. Higgins?". With this he is already showing more class and manners than Higgins as he greets the host immediately. In conclusion, I believe that in 1912, manners, words and accent were some of the most important contributories to reputation and how others acted towards you. In act V Eliza explains the importance of manners perfectly as she speaks to Colonel Pickering. "It was from you that I learnt really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isn't it? You see it was so very difficult for me with the example of Professor Higgins always before me. I should never have known that ladies and gentlemen didn't behave like that if you hadn't been there". This proves that the way Higgins acted was no reflection of upper class behaviour, being rude and unpleasant, which only turned situations against him. Colonel Pickering's actions were polite and well intentioned, and therefore he was respected. This outlines the importance of Manners. After this she outlines the importance of words. Again, She is speaking to Pickering "You calling me Miss Doolittle was the beginning of self respect for me". This also shows manners, but it mainly points out that a small thing like "Miss Doolittle" could make a large difference to the way others thought of you. John McCaw English I.P.H Page 1 of 3 ...read more.

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