Class, Money and Moral Responsibility in Pygmalion

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Literature viewed through Marxist perspective will often reflect the cultural assumptions and societal delegations of their time period, whilst simultaneously attempting to explain the world with rational and palpable evidence. Pygmalion, a play written by Bernard Shaw, uses the Marxist perspective to present a this or that picture of the world, helping the reader better understand how money and appearance (specifically language) play into public status.

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           Pygmalion was written to reflect the Victorian ages, to which the author argues, seems that the upper and middle classes often had more success in their skirmishes while the working class poor-almost invariably-lose due to the insatiability of their employers, poverty-stricken living conditions, ignorance, and apathy. Readers can see evidence of the Marxist take, particularly in the character of Henry Higgins. In reference to Eliza, a working class flower girl, he says She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist. (1.29) this demonstrates that more than just phonetics and dialect separate her from other women. The argument being that she would fit right in with more affluent society if she simply had enough money to take care of herself. This notion presents the severity of Eliza’s social impasse, by reflecting her current social status, in comparison, to other female citizens.

         The play doesn’t stop there. It continues to explore the elements of societal repression when introducing the character Alfred Doolittle, a “thinking man” (3.52). He seems to possess impressive intellectual qualifications, coupled with a more problematic moral aptitude. The latter characteristic spells out an unembarrassed pleasure in drinking and entertainment, even at the expense of others. His character invokes the authors aim to bring to light the vanities of charity by suggesting that man’s perceived ‘better-off-ness’ is a consequence not of his character, but of his financial situation. Proven accordingly, when he is thrust into a higher social class, not by updated speech or manner, but simply by money. Referring to Higgins & Pickering, he asks What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you. I ain’t pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that’s the truth. Will you take advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he’s brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she’s growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you. (2.273) He acknowledges the disparities of his social class and uses them to plead with Higgins for money, which in turn, would make him happy. Further identifying the stark connection of money and happiness, under Marxist analysis.

   In conclusion, The play, for the most part, did not portray real people discussing a real issue, but rather addresses serious issues of class, money, and moral responsibility. Understanding the Marxist perspective helps the reader better understand the the piece as a whole by exposing the severity of the varying situations-in how they relate to being successful within Victorian society.

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Class, Money And Moral Responsibility In Pygmalion. (2019, Jul 09). Retrieved August 17, 2022 , from
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