Middle-Class-Morality and Comments on Class and Social Standing made by Shaw in Pygmalion

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Middle-Class-Morality and Comments on Class and Social Standing made by Shaw in Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion is the story of Henry Higgins, a
master phonetician, and his mischievous plot to pass a common flower
girl, Eliza Doolittle, off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball. In order
achieve his goal, Higgins must teach Eliza how to speak properly and
how to act in upper-class society. The play pokes fun at "middle class
morality" and upper-class superficiality, reflects the social ills of
nineteenth century England, and attests that all people, regardless of
class background, are worthy of respect and dignity.

Pygmalion pokes fun at middle class morality through the
characterization
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She is miserable and confused. Shaw maintains
that perhaps it would be better if Higgins had never introduced Eliza
and her father to upper class society.

Pygmalion also mocks the superficiality of upper class society, a
society in which social status is determined by the language that you
speak, your manners, and the clothes you wear. It is astounding that
Higgins is able to pass Eliza off as an aristocrat, and Hungarian
royalty at that, merely by altering her appearance and speech. The
wealthy are so superficial they cannot see past Eliza's appearance.
This is a great example of the 'middle class morality' that Doolittle
refers to.

A character who is shown as being very influenced by appearance is
Clara Eynsford Hill. She is 'shown up' by the fact that when she sees
Eliza as a poor flower girl she undermines her and treats her as
though she were not worth her own time, however later on when Eliza is
more presentable Clara even imitates her. This shows the extent of the
shallowness in the upper classes.

On a deeper level, Pygmalion addresses the social ills in England at
the turn of the century. Edwardian England was characterized by
extreme class division and limited social mobility. Language separated
the aristocracy from the lower class. In Pygmalion, Eliza's cockney…