The Themes of Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw Essay

821 Words 4 Pages
The play, Pygmalion, by Bernard Shaw is about a phonetics expert who makes a bet that he can pass a Cockney flower girl as a duchess in the matter of a few months. This girl, Eliza does achieve the transformation, but at the expense of a familiar life in the gutters, and risks being caste off into the world with nowhere to turn. This play explores many themes, has extensive use of symbolism, interesting tonality, irony, and the play itself is an allusion to ancient Greek mythology.

The major theme in Pygmalion is class. In Britain you are very much judged by your social class. Your class is marked by your clothing, your mannerisms, and your accent. By a phonetics expert like Higgins, a person can be placed within two streets in London
…show more content…
They are rather dry, and sarcastic, like this comment made my Mrs. Higgins:

Prof. Higgins: [directed to Eliza in anger] Get out and come home and don't be a fool!

Mrs. Higgins: Very Nicely put indeed, Henry. No woman could resist such an invitation. (Act VII)

These kind of comments and Higgins' absolute lack of care for just about anything give the play a light-hearted, comedic tone, which contrast with it's serious, and perhaps rather boring, theme and plot.

Clothing in this show is symbolism to one's identity. When Eliza walks into Higgins' office, she is dirty and wears tattered clothing. As a first step in Eliza's transformation, he sends her off to the baths to be washed, her clothes burned, and new ones put on. With the dirty clothing, Eliza is seen as a poor, dirty girl. With new fancy cloths, Higgins intends to make her into a duchess, casting away her Cockney life. When she is seen later with a Japanese gown, she is mistaken for a Japanese lady by her own father. By changing her clothing, a change in people's perceptions of her will follow. Then, near the end of the play, when Eliza is planning to leave, she asks Higgins if the clothes her bought her were still her own. Higgins replies that they are. This shows that Eliza's identity is still her own, despite the transformation being conducted by Higgins.

Another symbol in Pygmalion is Higgins' slippers. After the party, when he misplaces them, Eliza retrieves them and
Open Document