A Leading Theme in Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1913. The story focuses on young Eliza, a poor flower girl who is seen as an uneducated and rather unpropper and unpleasant girl because of her strong distinct dialect. Two men, Higgins and Pickering, make a bet to themselves that they can turn Eliza into what they consider a proper duchess and an acceptable respected woman to society. She later agrees to participate to go forward in their bet in hopes of owning her own flower shop in the future. The plan later becomes a success and she is now socially acceptable. Though she later has mixed feelings about how to go about using her beauty and new found high ranking to mary a ‘proper’ man, the story ends with her remaining to be the new lady they made her.

From the very beginning of the play, we can see the unequal relationship between man and woman: Man is superior, woman is inferior. The male character is a language professor who is a gentleman of the upper class. Then there is the female protagonist that is seen as a meer mistake to society who visually that of the lower class. At the beginning of Eliza’s transformation, she is treated like a child rather than a paying customer. In this transformation she not only learns how to speak properly and manners, she finds her own firey spark under the teachings of Higgins. The man has created a ‘real woman’ and a satisfied wife for a man.

The theme of men creating the perfect woman is seen throughout the play. The position of being a woman is seen as the lowest in society. Eliza is seen only as an object for experiment. In professor Higgins eyes, she is only a ” creature,” ” a baggage,” one of the ” squashed cabbage leaves of covert garden ” and a ” damned impudent slut .” She is everything but an equal human being to man. In act two, Higgins even orders his house maid to take Eliza’s clothes off. We the reader don’t know whether his intentions in this order were sexual rather than intellectual. Throughout the play he is extremely verbally abusive to her, not treating her as a human at all. He treats her as how the author believes a woman should be treated.

Author George Bernard Shaw has shown his leading female protagonist bullied and degraded by the leading male protagonist. Though it is unknown about how Shaw feels about women, I believe that a lot of him is seen in professor Higgins. Higgins is a nasty and selfish man who shows zero regards for the feelings and well being of women. 

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