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 How does Shaw satirize society in Pygmalion?

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kaustavg | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 15, 2010 at 2:27 AM via web

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 How does Shaw satirize society in Pygmalion?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 15, 2010 at 3:03 AM (Answer #1)

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As a Socialist, George Bernard Shaw was acutely displeased with what he perceived as the flaws of the British class system.  In his play, Pygmalion, he incisively lampoons the rigid British class system of his time; for, by taking the lowest class person and using the ruse of the classic myth of Pygmalion as his title, Shaw satirizes the superficiality of the British upper class, who readily accept the beautifully transformed cockney flower peddler, Eliza Doolittle, once she learns to sound like a lady.  

With its ending, too, Shaw clearly satirizes the British society, particularly the role of women in society as his very independent character leaves Dr. Higgins, who has virtually recreated her.  She explains this rejection by saying that to Dr. Higgins she will always be a flower girl.  But, Eliza contends, being a lady depends more upon internal behavior and goodness than upon speech and social class. As she departs from Dr. Higgins, she says,

"It's not because you paid for my dresses....But it was you that I learned really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isn't it?"

Having successfully made one transformation, Eliza considers the possibility of another transfromation as an independent person.  This idea, too, is in sharp contrast to the fixed social strata of British society.  With Eliza's character, Shaw satirizes the British concept of social graces and class as being the measure of a person's worth.

 

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