The Mutual Exclusivity of Class and Morality in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ 12th Grade
The honest and compelling transformation of a simple flower girl from a disempowered ‘draggle-tailed guttersnipe’ to a ‘fierce’ woman who demands what she ‘want[s]’ and feistily laments the loss of her ‘independence’ is emblematic of the laudable qualities that Shaw wishes to highlight in the human person, existing regardless of social status. The result of this transformation is antithetic to the hypocrisy, questionable morality and lack of emotional intelligence of her Pygmalion figure, and others who belong to this class to which Eliza aspires, as Shaw exposes the redundancy of the institutionalized class system and advocates for its dissolution, as the class of the characters play is shown to exist independently of their morality.
The play finds its roots in a mere ‘foll[y]’ for the revered Professor Higgins. This is a confronting description for the audience, as the word ‘folly’ implies than for Higgins, this girl’s life is reduced to a casual undertaking of little thought and consideration, which established the idea that Higgins regards human emotions rather like scientific objects; something to be experimented on, and to an extent abused, for personal pleasure. He declares that ‘[he] shall make a duchess of this...
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