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Pygmalion - What does the play show us of the society of its time?

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Introduction

Pygmalion Essay What does the play show us of the society of its time? In this essay I will be discussing Bernard Shaw's representation of Edwardian Society in 'Pygmalion'. Shaw was a member of the Fabian Society; a collection of middle class people who believed that capitalism had created an unjust and unfair society. They were concerned about the unreasonable and imbalanced class system of the time and wanted to 'reconstruct society', creating an equal and fair civilisation with no class divide, which was so blatantly obvious due to the ignorance between classes. The rich lived lifestyles of luxury; the men would earn livings through land and property they owned and through careers such as scientists, lawyers and accountants. In the summer, they enjoyed a whole season of entertainment at their London house for tea and dinner parties, dances and visits to the theatre. In winter, they had holidays abroad and spent weekends at each other's country houses. The men went shooting and hunting and the ladies entertained themselves horse riding. Meanwhile, the poor were struggling on the dirty streets earning a pittance for manual jobs in workhouses and places similar. Conditions for them were sometimes so bad that they were forced to live in ridiculously over-crowded houses with other poor families. ...read more.

Middle

This is the typical treatment the working class received from the upper classes. The working class clearly did not deserve to be treated in this way; they desperately needed help from the upper classes who could clearly afford to donate some of their money towards helping the poor gain better lifestyles. Like Dickens, Shaw saw that if the poor were educated and their ignorance was eradicated then they could learn to help themselves. The poor deserved to be treated with value by the upper classes; the only difference between them was money. The stereotypes the middle class gave to the poor were unfair, harsh and not necessarily true at times. Higgins believes that if he pays Eliza money, she will only spend it on alcohol, 'She'll only drink if you give her money.' When Doolittle visits Higgins at home to try and gain money for Eliza, Higgins is surprised that Doolittle has a 'certain natural gift of rhetoric'. Higgins is impressed because Doolittle is a working class man yet he is able to speak clearly and expressively. This again is a stereotype because Higgins is presupposing that because Doolittle is of a lower class than he is, he is unintelligent. Doolittle speaks for Shaw's views; the poor deserve independence and respect from the upper classes. ...read more.

Conclusion

She is now able to fend for herself and for Freddy Eynsford-Hill to Higgins, contrasting the weak and feeble character she was at the beginning of the play. This shows how a bit of respect from the middle class can alter a person's personality, and how the poor can all be changed if they were treated equally and with respect by the middle class. Eliza's morality seems better than the Eynsford-Hill family's, her disapproving attitude towards prostitution and Mrs. Eynsford-Hill's wish for Clara to be married to a rich man, 'I sold flowers not myself.' Eliza's ability to reprimand Higgins is a bit of a shame for Higgins, as he is being scolded by someone who he had always considered lower than him. This illustrates again the fact that money does not buy you respect or manners and does not make you a good person. Shaw wanted the middle classes to realise and consider the working class. He was convinced that the way to alleviate the problem of poverty in society was to provide equal opportunity for all. This message is depicted in Eliza's transformation. Shaw also attacks middle class values and brands them hypocrites. He suggests that exposure to working class values might do them some good and teach them a valuable lesson. It is an influential message from start to finish and will persuade many people to consider others more. ...read more.

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