How does Shaw express his socialist position through the character of Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion?

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Shaw was actually a Fabian, a member of a group that believed socialism could be brought to England without the violent revolution Marx thought was a prerequisite to change.

In Pygmalion , Shaw is attacking the class system, especially the idea that the middle and upper classes are innately "better"...

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Shaw was actually a Fabian, a member of a group that believed socialism could be brought to England without the violent revolution Marx thought was a prerequisite to change.

In Pygmalion, Shaw is attacking the class system, especially the idea that the middle and upper classes are innately "better" than the working classes. Many people in England of that period felt, first, that the working classes (what we would call the poor or the working poor in the US) were genetically inferior to the higher classes. They did not attribute working class deficits to environmental factors such as lack of nutrition, education, and health care, but to inborn problems that no amount of education or resources could help. Second, many middle-class people thought that every working-class person, though unworthy, must aspire to be part of the middle class, as it was, to them, enviable and innately superior.

As an aside, when we talk about the "middle class" in England in the pre–World War I period (Pygmalion was written in 1913), this term has a slightly different connotation than in the US: it means people who are affluent or wealthy and educated, but not aristocratic or royal—these are, generally, far richer people than the term "middle class" might imply to us.

Through Alfred Doolittle, Shaw attacks the class system, which the socialists wanted to abolish. First, even though he is a poor dustman or garbageman, Alfred is a very smart person—he knows how to strike a bargain, and he can see through pretension. He hasn't been born with a lack of brains anymore than Eliza has, only a lack of opportunity. Second, when he rises to the middle class through a very generous stipend from a wealthy American, he punctures the pretension that it is "better" to be middle class. Doolittle puts his finger on all the problems with having money—you are expected to behave in a certain upright way morally (Alfred, for example, is suddenly forced to marry his lover to remain respectable) and people are constantly after you for money, from doctors who are suddenly concerned about your health to relatives who want to be remembered in your will—or sooner. Alfred, comically, misses his days as a poor nobody who was invisible to others and thus free to do his own thing.

This relates to socialism because, first, Shaw show that there is no reason not to educate and help the working classes—they can benefit from having access to same resources as the rich. Second, as said above, socialists wanted to do away with the class system so that everyone could be equal. By showing how uncomfortable many aspects of being in a wealthier class are, Alfred makes an argument for this kind of leveling: if a small group of people who are now rich suddenly are the same as everyone, much pressure is taken from them.

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