Compare/Contrast the Treatment of Femininity in Pygmalion and Medea

1425 Words Mar 12th, 2008 6 Pages
Historically, the treatment of femininity in literature is wide ranging. Some texts explore the feelings and responsibilities involved with typically feminine traits such as motherhood and in social environments, while others highlight more feminist issues such as the struggle for equality and male oppression. Authors of both sexes have made major contributions to this area in literature but it remains surprising that male writers have been able to perceptively portray women above their previously subordinate positions in society.

In George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, we see the main character, Eliza Doolittle transformed from an ill-mannered Cockney flower girl into a high society debutante with the help of some elocution lessons
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She wishes to better herself and tries to mobilise socially to achieve this. When Eliza's father arrives at the house, Shaw succeeds in showing that women at that time were seen as property, with Doolittle ‘selling' his daughter to Higgins for a measly five pounds.
Shaw was a feminist and uses Higgins to highlight the chauvinistic qualities that most men possessed at that time. Higgins bullies Eliza into submission and is not shy about doing so in company, calling her a ‘squashed cabbage leaf' (Shaw pg18), he also humiliates her, ‘A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere' (Shaw pg18). Higgins strips Eliza of her own identity, providing her with new clothing and destroying her own items but Eliza uses all of this to her advantage and is a good student for the professor .
Later on in the play Eliza confides in Colonel Pickering that she believes that it is the way a woman is treated that makes her feel like a lady and not the way a lady behaves and so, although Higgins has taught her how to sound like a lady, it is the Colonel himself that has made her feel like one because of his treatment of her throughout.
Her determination pushes Eliza further, but the constant intimidation from Higgins creates a great deal of tension

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