What social issue is being discussed in the play Pygmalion?

One social issue discussed in the play Pygmalion is the struggle of women to gain respect and independence, which is even more difficult when they lack the power and affluence afforded to the upper classes.

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One of the social issues Pygmalion tackles involves the limitations placed on women in the early twentieth century. This situation is compounded by the strict social hierarchy in England at this time, and Eliza Doolittle finds herself at the center of a clash of social class conflicts.

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One of the social issues Pygmalion tackles involves the limitations placed on women in the early twentieth century. This situation is compounded by the strict social hierarchy in England at this time, and Eliza Doolittle finds herself at the center of a clash of social class conflicts.

When the play opens, Eliza is a "saucy" member of the lower class whom Higgins deems "incapable of understanding anything." Because of her slang and mannerisms, little is expected of Eliza, and no one really believes that she has any intelligence worth noting. Higgins views himself as Eliza's savior on some level, affording her an opportunity to rise out of poverty through his efforts.

With some effort, Eliza becomes a lady, demonstrating an ability to adapt to the expectations of the wealthy. Yet her conflict continues; ladies, after all, cannot work in the streets selling flowers like commoners. With limited options, it is suggested that Eliza settle into married life. Still seeing her as his own "masterpiece," Higgins insists that she become the wife of an ambassador or a lord. Eliza perceives his perspective as "tyranny" and insists that she would rather have her "independence."

Recognizing her own strengths, Eliza tells Higgins that she could become a teacher. This infuriates Higgins, who calls her a "damned impudent slut" and insists that he likes her "like this."

Eliza's struggle to follow her own path, particularly when her choices conflict with those of the men around her, was common to women regardless of social standing in England at this time. Yet because Eliza lacks the affluence and power of the upper class, she finds it even more difficult to claim the independence she desires.

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