What is the impact of the setting in Pygmalion?

The impact of the setting in Pygmalion is the conflict it creates for Eliza Doolittle, who wants to improve her social standing. In London in the early 1900s, it was quite difficult for a poor girl to develop the social etiquette necessary to reflect the standards of the upper classes.

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Pygmalion is set in London at the beginning of the 1900s. Though there was a growing sense of upward social mobility in England during this period, those who did find themselves fortunate enough to achieve worldly success were expected to present character and demeanor reflecting the expectations of the upper class. London in the early 1900s had a strict system of social hierarchy, and there were countless rules governing social etiquette that differentiated the wealthy from the middle class and from the poor.

Eliza is much like a "squashed cabbage leaf" as she begins this little experiment, a poor girl with little hope of improving her station in life. She is crass, and the language she uses reflects that of the lower classes.

She begins her transformation after meeting Professor Higgins in Covent Garden. It is important to note that this is a hub of activity in London, home to theaters, opera houses, and other forms of entertainment. This artistic mecca is the only place in the story where the classes mingle freely; in Higgins's lab and Mrs. Higgins's apartment, the socially elite look with scorn upon anyone who enters their chic and dignified spaces.

The setting is thus central to the conflict Eliza faces in the story. Her independent spirit must adhere to the social norms of the wealthy in order to improve her circumstances in life, which demonstrates the power of language, education, and social norms.

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