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
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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