Pygmalion

Pygmalion and the Dissolution of Class Barriers 12th Grade

George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ is a play that is scathing in its attack on the pruderies, hypocrisies and inconsistencies of higher society in early 20th century London. Through the transformation of Eliza Doolittle, Shaw reveals to the audience that amongst the ‘draggletailed guttersnipe[s]’ of the lower class, there lies hidden an intelligence, honesty and tenacity that exceeds the virtues of the upper class, and that the way in which they are treated by their apparent social betters is unjustified. However, Shaw’s castigation of the upper class is not simply restricted to the character of Eliza - through various characters in the play, Shaw creates a moral landscape that juxtaposes people at the top end of the social hierarchy, with those at the very lowest end. He challenges the bases of judgements made by the upper class (judgements based on trivial surface appearances, such as one’s accent, one’s social niceties and one’s occupation), and questions the supposed inadequacies of Eliza’s class. Ultimately, Shaw encourages the audience to look beyond the stifling class barriers of the period and embrace the basic human characteristics of goodness. The character of Eliza embodies this goodness, and the audience is therefore...

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