The play Pygmalion begins at the Covent Garden when two old gentlemen (Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering) meet on one rainy night. Professor Higgins specializes in phonetics while Colonel Pickering is a linguistic with an influential Indian dialect. Higgins is strongly convicted that his thorough knowledge of phonetics can fully transform Eliza Doolittle (a cockney speaking flower girl at the Covent Garden) into a duchess in the high London society within few months should he be given a chance to train her. However, Pickering is in a great doubt as to whether Higgins can perform the magic of changing the poor flower girl into a duchess through his explicit knowledge of phonetics.
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Over-carried with the desire to become a well spoken duchess, Eliza makes an appearance at Higgins laboratory on the Wimpole Street though she could only afford to pay a shilling for fee. Eliza is first bathed by Higgins’ housekeeper and she is clean to the point her resisting dustman father, Alfred Doolittle, cannot recognize her. She is also adorned with the borrowed jewelry to add to beauty. After some time of training on how to speak properly, Eliza amazes everyone including Eynsford Hills whose son Freddy is deeply in love with the flower girl. Nevertheless, Mrs. Higgins is not happy with her training at all. At the end of the play, Eliza finally passes as a duchess at an ambassador’s party. She is grateful to Higgins and Pickering and aspires to work with phonetician, Nepommuck.
Pygmalion is a powerful playwright that shows that the existing social stratification and economic disparities in the London society is just but a human creation which could easily be overcome in the society. Liza Doolittle and her father Alfred Doolittle are both struggling in the London society doing odd jobs in a bid to make ends meet. Liza sells flowers in muddy places of the Covent Garden while his father is a dustman since these are the kind of jobs they are destined to perform in London due to their Indian ascent. In sharp contrast, members of the upper class such as Higgins and Eynsford Hills wallow in opulence as portrayed in Act I of the play. As such, Shaw has successfully featured the nature and impacts of the widening gap between the rich and poor in London.
George Bernard Shaw (the author) basically proves in the play that there is no difference between the royal and the lower cadre members of the London society and that the existing socio-economic disparities could be bridged through transformational agents such as education, empowerment and provision of equal opportunity for all in the society. As portrayed Act I of the play, Eliza Doolitle is just but a poor flower girl at the Coven Garden who could not even speak well. At the end of the play, Eliza passes as a duchess at an ambassador’s party and the high London society approves of her. Similarly, his father-and a former dustman Alfred Doolittle is turned into a millionaire with the recommendation of Professor Higgins at the end of Act IV. This illustrates that London is a free society where an achievement of the much desired upward mobility is a reality.
The only weakness found in the play is the negative ethnicity. Shaw portrays Eliza and her father Doolittle as ungrateful opportunists in the London society. In more than one occasion, the members of Indian origin are featured as money minded and violent. In Act II, Alfred and Eliza separately engage Higgins in a scuffle to their own advantage.
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