Metamorphosis of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

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The Metamorphosis of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

The benefits of acquiring an education are not limited to the academic aspects often associated with it. Part of the edification it bestows includes being enabled to reach new insight, being empowered to cultivate a new awareness, and being endowed with a new understanding of life and of self. In Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle experiences this type of enlightenment as the result of undergoing a drastic change in social status. With the sponsorship and guidance of Colonel Pickering, Eliza, a common street flower vendor, receives phonetic instruction from Professor Henry Higgins and is transformed into an elegant and refined "duchess" (817). Eliza Doolittle is highly emotional and has dauntless pride; however, her level of confidence increases as she gains a new perception of herself and a new outlook on life through the instruction she receives.

Although in the beginning of the play Eliza Doolittle possesses a dignity of self that has persevered despite the lowliness of her social status as a "draggletailed guttersnipe" (817), she has little confidence and a low sense of worth. By describing Eliza's emotional states throughout the play, Shaw illuminates the evolution of Eliza's character. In the opening act when Eliza receives the impression that she is being "charged" for "taking advantage of [a] gentleman's proximity" to persuade him to "buy a flower," Shaw describes that she becomes "terrified" and claims, "I ain't done nothing wrong . . . I've a right to sell flowers . . ." (806). Eliza's initial feeling of fear points to a momentary sense of self-doubt in her character; however, her solid pride leads her to make a declaration in def...

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...f" as she "sweeps out" (864). Too proud to be bossed around, Eliza is confident enough to stand her ground and defend her dignity without being timid. Although it was in Eliza's sensitive nature to "fetch slippers," now she "won't care for anybody that doesn't care for [her]" (860).

Eliza Doolittle continually manifested pride and a touchy sensitivity; however, once educated, the drastic change of experiencing a substantially improved social standing caused the development of visual confidence in her character. Armed with self-esteem, Eliza had the necessary force in her character to face adversity without doubting herself or relying on the strength of others.

Works Cited

Shaw, Bernard. Pygmalion. Introduction to Literature: Reading, Analyzing, and Writing. 2nd ed. Ed. Dorothy U. Seyler and Richard A. Wilan. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1990. 800?64.

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