Identity In Pygmalion, By George Bernard Shaw

2049 Words 9 Pages
Transformation Station

The most stubborn people in life are still susceptible to change. This

becomes true for Henry Higgins in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. He

undergoes an emotional and psychological transformation due to his different

experiences. In Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, Henry Higgins’

transformation is demonstrated through his change in language, his change in

his view of gender roles, and his behavior towards social class.

Henry is transformed in his language and more specifically in his language

of class, his judgment, and his relationships

Throughout the play Henry interacts with people of different classes and

the way he speaks to them changes. First of all, in the opening scene Henry is
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In the opening

scene a man observes, "That 's not a sport whistle" (Shaw 3). A person standing

near Henry mistakes him for a cop, but instead he is a gentleman. Rodelle

Weintraub says, "Higgins creates an initial images of a good guy in order to

attract students in for his own selfish desires" (Weintraub 3). He sticks up for

Eliza and reassures her that everything is okay. Then, towards the end of the

play he speaks very rudely to Eliza. Henry says to Eliza, "You damned impudent

slut, you!" (Shaw 143). This is important because he insults her simply because

she shifts from being a common flower girl to a lady. Ashley comments, "She

learns to speak properly, but she voices her own opinions, defends her own

Beck 2

interests, and rebels against Higgins" (Ashley 2). He changes the way he talks to

her when she becomes intelligent.

Henry judges others in the beginning of the play but by the end his views

change. He realizes that the lower-class girl he took in as a student is

transformed into a lady. Henry remarks, "The difference between a lady and a

flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated" (Shaw 78).
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He supports Eliza for taking a

stand and he agrees that men have too much authority over women.

Henry 's identity is transformed in Pygmalion. He appears to be a

gentleman in the first scene. A man standing near him notes, "e 's a gentleman:

look at his boots" (Shaw 4). Ashley comments, "Judgments are passed, and

people of all walks of life are categorized based on their presumed social

standing" (Ashley 1). Since most everyone judges each other by their

appearance, Henry wants to be seen as an upper class, educated man. That is

why he dresses the way he does. Furthermore, in the last scenes of the play,

Henry concludes that identity is unimportant because everyone is equal. He

states, "We 're all savages, more or less" (Shaw 124). Higgins uses the word

“we’re” which implies that he includes himself in the same category as people

from the lower class and that they are all equal. Ashley agrees, "Ultimately, over-

emphasizing class divisions leads to prejudice and inequality and prevents

people from fulfilling their potential as individuals" (Ashley 2). Higgins believes

that everyone is judgmental and the class divisions aren 't valid.


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