How is George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, an early twentieth-century English play meaningful in India now?
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In one way, what makes George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion interesting reading for the contemporary Indian student is precisely because of the degree of cultural difference. Just as it is important for British students to read Indian literature, so too it is important for Indian students to read British and other non-Indian world literatures.
Specifically, though, Pygmalion reflects the historical situation of the British Empire, which had a tremendous effect on India. Also, as types of English accents still affect employment opportunities for many Indian students, and perceptions of class and accent are still very much intertwined, the treatment of the subjects by Shaw should be of interest.
Higgins, the linguist who teaches Eliza how to speak in an upper class manner in Pygmalion, articulates the relationship between class and language in his comment:
"You have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul." Act 3
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