Marxist Analysis on G B Shaw’s Pygmalion
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Anglo-Irish author of more than 60 plays and winner of both the Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award (Oscar) (1930, for Pygmalion), as well as prolific producer of literary and music criticism, focused most often on social issues. He supported equality of political rights for women and protested what he saw as exploitation of workers; his socialist idealism was bone-deep, to the point where he refused to believe news of famine in the supposed rural paradise of the Soviet Union, despite all evidence of that system’s failures. This paper analysis G B Shaw’s Pygmalion on Marxist point of view.
Marxism was a literary school which its pioneers were Marx and Engels. They divided society into 2 major classes: Bourgeoisie and labors. Bourgeoisies are the minority who rules and set the norms on the society and take benefits while labors are just low class of society and workers who are trying to please that minority. None of these two categories can live without the other one; they just can be explained as living together. Then there appears a third class which is mostly middle class. They can be neither like bourgeoisies nor like the working class. They have a mixture of these two lives and norms.
Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw can be a good example of these classes of society. He discovered Marxism in 1882. Having read Marx in a French translation, he began to spread the word speaking out about Fabianism, the British brand of socialism he favored, just about-any place where people would listen, on street corners, in market squares, in parks, in town halls, and at political assemblies. In fact, Shaw’s oratory zeal almost got him arrested at least twice. A flower girl and a noble man can bring a situation to see the differences and study their behaviors and norms clearly.
Pygmalion is the story of a flower girl name Eliza and a Phonologist name Henry Higgins. Her bad language and accent attracts Higgins to take some notes and this accident is the beginning of their acquaintance when Eliza decides to change her language to find a job in a flower shop and become a lady. Higgins bet on her to win over the Colonel and make a duchess out of her then the journey starts. At the end of the play Eliza leaves him both are sad and wounded, one claims that she wanted more attention and respect while the other claims that has treated perfectly and as he has used to be. Eliza tells that she wants to marry the absent minded youth, Freddy to find love and respect and that drives Higgins mad and sad at the end. At first let’s have a look over the myth behind the play. Pygmalion was an artist who found faults in women at last he created a sculpture out of ivory, so beautiful that no women could be compared with and fell in love with that figure. Venus heard his prays and made her come alive. In this story Higgins tries to make a new girl out of Eliza and obviously falls in love with her. Higgins finds fault in women but why? Is he cold blooded like Pygmalion? Or is he too snub? We can categorize the characters of this play into three different categories, high class which includes Higgins, Pickering, Mrs. Higgins and Freddy, upper middle class, Mrs.Pierce and low middle class to which Eliza and Alfred Doolittle belong. Neither Col.Pickering nor Henry Higgins have a clue about the situation they are putting Eliza or themselves into. The different behaviors of the first and class group are noticeable. Pickering as a gentleman is too caring and polite and has no pain, just like Higgins, though, he is much freer in speech and action. The character of Higgins it can be said freer in speech and action. The character of Higgins , it can be said fits the Marxist stereotype of the greedy, manipulative bourgeois who exploits the working class in order to fulfill has own ends.
Hedoes not care about other feelings or thoughts which is one of the most obvious behaviors of the high class.
“Well when I’ve done with her, we can throw her back into the gutter;and then it will be her own business again.”
(Act II) Higgins’ nonchalant attitude regarding Eliza’s future is similar to how a bourgeois is interested in a worker only to the extent that he can use the worker for his ends; what happens to the worker at the end of the work day is of no concern to the bourgeois. For Higgins, what happens to Eliza after Higgins has won his bet is of no concern to him. Thus because he regards Eliza only as either a commodity or a worker only to be used to fulfill his designs, Higgins is a classicexample of Marx’s heartless, avaricious bourgeois.(http://culturemining.blogspot.de/2009/12/bourgeois-flowergirl-and-worker.html) Though he is not that much heartless as he shall be.
“HIGGINS. About you, not about me. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can’t changemy nature; and I don’t intend to change my manners. Mymanners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering’s.” (Act V)
When Eliza objects to he just simply says:
“LIZA. That’s not true. He treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess. HIGGINS. And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl.”(Act V)
Even at the beginning of the play Mrs. Pierce refers to his bad habits, the curses he uses all the time, the mess he makes and leaves everywhere and he never turns a hair to what others may think of him. On the other hand, Eliza always is trying to be a good girl that is the most common thought among the middle class and she repeats it all through the play:
“LIZA. You’re no gentleman, you’re not, to talk of such things. I’m a good girl, I am; and I know what the like of you are, I do.” (Act II)
Even at the end of the play she again refers to herself that she was a good girl and now after this change she is no good anymore. She begs for mercy and kindness which Higgins calls it “Puppy- Trick” and hates it the most. He asks her to have self-respect and do not seek it in the others behaviors.s
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