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In what ways does Eliza Doolittle change in Pygmalion?

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Pygmalion Essay In what ways does Eliza Doolittle change in Pygmalion? Based on classical myth, Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion plays on the complex issue of human relationships in a social world. Phonetics Professor Henry Higgins, tutors the very Cockney, uneducated Eliza Doolittle, not only in the refinement of speech, but also in the refinement of her manner. When the end result produces a very ladylike Miss Doolittle, the lessons learned become much more far reaching. Shaw took the title of his play from the legendary King of Cyprus, Pygmalion, who was also a famous sculptor. Pygmalion sculpted a beautiful woman from ivory, called Galatea, with whom he fell in love. On begging Aphrodite (the Greek goddess of love), to breathe life into his creation, his wish was granted and he married her. Pygmalion is therefore an appropriate title for this play, for Galatea is created from a block of stone, and Eliza herself originates from similarly unpromising beginnings, with Professor Higgins as the 'Pygmalion' character, as it is he who creates a 'new woman' from such raw material. It is Eliza's metamorphosis, from downtrodden flower girl to a polished young lady (the highs, the lows, the intense drama and the comic moments) which provide the basis for Pygmalion's well crafted story-line. Eliza's Appearance Our first introduction to Eliza, is in the form of the Act 1 stage directions (page 8), where her appearance comes under scrutiny by Shaw's vivid writing. ...read more.


So this is probably one of the reasons he has made language and pronunciation major themes of the play, and as he says in his comprehensive Preface to Pygmalion, made an "energetic phonetic enthusiast, the hero of a popular play". Shaw began Eliza's speech (in Act I) in a mixture of written broken English and phonetic symbols, quite unintelligible to the reader (and as he describes it, "unintelligible to anyone outside London"). This has a dual purpose, for it clearly shows the reader the distinctiveness of Eliza's accent (and the large distance between her "kerbstone English" and her ambitious aim of being able to speak like "a lady in a flower shop"). This will not only increase the reader's awe at the magnitude of her transformation, but it will also show the amount of work that would have had to go into the transformation (Shaw does not show the many months of tutoring in the play- he just surprises the audience with Eliza's 'new found eloquence'). The other purpose of spelling out Eliza's pronunciations is to enhance the element of confusion the scenes of Act I are intended to evoke from the reader (and no doubt the audience of a staged Pygmalion). The confusion arises in a variety of places; the true identity of some characters (the 'Note Taker', the 'Daughter', the 'Gentleman', etc.) and Eliza's hysterical confusion when she wrongly accuses the 'Note Taker' (Prof. Higgins) ...read more.


Whereas Galatea was created from nothing (a block of ivory) by King Pygmalion,- Prof. Higgins, Colonel Pickering and Mrs Pearce merely enhanced and remoulded many of the qualities Eliza already possessed to create the end result. Without Eliza's self discipline, raw talent, commited and swift learning, it would have been impossible to pass her off as a duchess after just a matter of months. I think the way Shaw portrays her as growing more and more confident and independent throughout the play, does well as a message to the reader that Eliza herself, was in a sense, her own creator. I think that Eliza's need to liberate herself from Prof. Higggins to become a teacher herself, was more necessary than she herself even knew, for just like Galatea, she could never truly like Prof. Higgins (the equivalent of King Pygmalion) for as Shaw cleverly points out, "his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable". Throughout his life, Shaw's plays often tended to attack what he felt to be bad elements in society and make his audiences feel uncomfortable with the bitter truth of society's flaws. If this is what he intended for Pygmalion, I think he was certainly successful. Pygmalion challenges many of the damaging root elements of society including the segregation of the class system, and the ruthlessness of human nature, themes that almost all of us are guilty of either condoning or ignoring- both of which are detrimental if there is ever to be any kind of social reform. Natalya Frederick 10JT ...read more.

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