"Continually unsettling and provoking, even when making us laugh." How far do you agree with this statement in the context of Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with this statement, but say the play is probably less unsettling to a modern U.S. audience than an upper-class British audience of a hundred years ago. The play challenges notions of class as genetically inborn by showing a poor East End Cockney flower seller gaining acceptance into the highest echelons of society by learning to speak upper-class English with an upper-class accent. Living as we do in the US in a more equalitarian society, the idea of rising up through our own merits is probably not that unsettling to us. All the same, seeing illustrated through both Eliza and her father the extent to which birth unfairly consigns people to impoverished lives--and to harsh judgement for leading the supposedly immoral lives they do--still disturbs us. So does Henry Higgins' inability to see Eliza as a full human being in her own right and not as an object put on the earth for his convenience. Even at the end, when he grows more sympathetic to her for standing up to him, he still simply assumes she will do his bidding. All of this provokes us into wanting to challenge the assumptions and the arrogance of the English class system.