Essay on Equality and Social Class in Pygmalion

Essay on Equality and Social Class in Pygmalion

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Equality and Social Class in Pygmalion

   The idea of ranking individuals based upon their wealth and behaviors has endured through all cultures, countries, and times.  George Benard Shaw's Pygmalion addresses an individual's capability to advance through society, an idea as old as social distinction.  Shaw does so through the social parable of a young English flower girl named Eliza Dolittle, who after receiving linguistic training assumes the role of a duchess.  She receives instruction, as a bet, by a self-absorbed language professor named Henry Higgens.  However, Eliza does not take her social ascension alone, as she is joined by her drunken father Alfred P. Dolittle.  The manner in which they rise from poverty demonstrates their equality as humans.  As illustrated through Shaw's Pygmalion, the innate equality of  individuals necessitates their ability to rise from their social class.


An individual's humanity necessitates social equality.  The shared human experience imposes innate equality.  A person's equality or often inequality in a social setting is often "extrinsic and subjective" (Mugglestone 379).  Also, Shaw uses Eliza's character and feeling of self worth to demonstrate the distinctions between the "undeniable facts of innate equality, and the social... fallacies" that prevent its recognition (Mugglestone 377).  The rebirth of Eliza from a flower girl to a lady implies that the trivial issue as an accent is the main distinction between classes (Tindall 44).  Social constraints prove ineffective at diminishing an inner sense of equality.  Eliza, refusing to recognize the demeaning social expectations imposed upon her class, rebukes Higgens rudeness with the declaration of equality ",I've a right to b...

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...e Art and Mind of Shaw.  New York: St. Martin's, 1983.

Goldberg, Michael. "Shaw's Pygmalion: The Reworking of Great Expectations." The Shaw Review 22 (1979): 114-22.

Lerner, Alan Jay. "Pygmalion and My Fair Lady." The Shaw Review 1.10 (1951-56): 4-7.

Lorichs, Sonja. The Unwomanly Woman in Bernard Shaw's Drama and Her Social and Political Background. Rotobeckman, Stockholm: UPPSALA, 1973.

Mugglestone, Lynda. "Shaw, Subjective Inequality, and the Social Meanings of Language in Pygmalion." Review of English Studies 44.175 (1993): 373-85.

Reynolds, Jean. Pygmalion's Wordplay: The Postmodern Shaw. Tampa: UP of Florida, 1999.

Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion. New York: Washington Square P, 1916.

Tindall, William York. Forces in Modern British Literature. London: Knopf, 1947. Mills, John A. Language and Laughter. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1969.     

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