Pygmalion and My Fair Lady

3190 Words Feb 17th, 2012 13 Pages
Discuss the different ways of representing class conflicts.
Pygmalion, Bernard Shaw, 1914
My Fair Lady, George Cukor, 1964

“As the purpose of comedy is to correct the vices of men, I see no reason why anyone should be exempt.” This famous quotation of French playwright Molière proves how powerfully theater and social criticism are linked, and how in its different genres, drama as well as comedy, theater can, and maybe must, be a way of communicating and expressing the human and society’s flaws. Indeed, theater, as defined by Marvin Carlson, is a “collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place.” This specificity of theatrical
…show more content…
In this scene from the movie, Eliza has attempted to clean up and change her appearance in order to look more lady-like. However, even after her efforts, she stands out as poor and inadequate compared to Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering and even Mrs. Pearce, who is also of the working class. Physical appearance is of utter importance when it comes to differentiating each class, and can also be modified in order to move among the social hierarchy. During the Vth Act, a maid mistakes Alfred Doolittle for a gentleman, and Bernard Shaw insists on the fact that it is due to his new physical aspect: “ He is brilliantly dressed in a new fashionable frock-coat, with white waistcoat and grey trousers. A flower in his buttonhole, a dazzling silk hat, and patent leather shoes complete the effect.” Furthermore, Eliza’s transformation is made most evident throughout her clothing, which consists of at the beginning of her flower girl outfit, dirty and gloomy, and ends with her ball gown, rich and bright. However, what matters most when it comes to class distinction is speech. The play and the movie are all based on the importance of language, and its power on to build or break an individual. Eliza at the beginning of the plot speaks in a terrible manner, proving her low origins. Her speech contrasts vividly with Henry’s, especially
Open Document