Language And Class Structure In George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

1558 Words 7 Pages
In George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, he highlights the issue of language in relation to class structure. Borrowing ideas from the Greek myth Pygmalion, Shaw creates character Henry Higgins, a phonetician, who tries to transform the flower-selling, cockney Eliza Doolittle into a lady. While exploring the idea of creation between Higgins and Doolittle, Shaw chooses to focus on their social dimensionality. While Eliza is trained to speak and act like a lady, she does not gain the proper instincts in social situations without further instruction after her first attempt to appear normal. The opposing opinions of Higgins and Doolittle work to highlight the difference in class and their creation dynamic. As the play progresses there is a clear, purposeful …show more content…
Colonel Pickering and Henry Higgins treat Eliza Doolittle different. Pickering, from the very first day, treats Eliza with respect, calling her “Mrs. Doolittle” and letting her enter rooms first, etc. Higgins, however, treats Eliza with no respect, cursing in front of her, calling her names, and constantly putting her down. Eliza recognizing this at the end of the play exclaims, “You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is no how she behaves, but how she’s treated” (Shaw, 95). In this one line she tears down social class and shows that all the aspects that make up the “upper class” – manners, speech, dancing – can be taught. However, one cannot be taught to be a decent person. Clara Eynsford Hill comments on manners saying, “It’s all a manner of habit. There’s no right or wrong in it” (Shaw, 62). She’s highlighting the notions of polite behavior have no meaning because they are neither good nor …show more content…
Instead of making Eliza from scratch and molding her exactly into what he wants like the original, he takes a person who is already alive with feelings and convictions and tries to mold her into fitting into a new social class. Another difference poses itself in their romantic relationship. It seems for some time in the play that Eliza and Higgins may get married or live with one another in some capacity; however Shaw chooses to undercut this by making Higgins an extremely unlikable character. At the end of the play, he takes all the credit for “winning the bet” and has no recognition for the efforts Eliza puts in to allow him to win the

Related Documents