Bernard Shaw’s Use Of Eliza To Elevate The Lower Social Class And Women In Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a play by Bernard Shaw that portrays a selfless woman from the lower classes living in an capitalist society. At the time, women of the lower class were considered inferior to the men from the upper classes and had to find other ways to survive. In order to survive, many women had no choice but to turn prostitution. Eliza proves herself superior to upper-class people and raises women and the lower class. Eliza is a woman who lives in a world that considers women and lower-class people as filthy, stupid and incompetent.

Higgins is a member of a society that views women and the lower class as unworthy of respect. Higgins, as a member of the upper class, represents a group of people who believe that women, especially those in the lower classes, are not worthy of respect. Eliza’s father and Higgins both think that she is someone without any opinions or emotions. Eliza is intimidated and tormented by Higgins when she first arrives at his home. He says that Eliza has no feelings about which they should be concerned. Alfred Doolittle tells Eliza that she is “only woman and does not know how to enjoy life” (Shaw, 60). Eliza’s dad should not be degrading his daughter, but instead he says these things. Eliza’s devaluation is due to her being a woman, as well as the fact that she belongs to a lower class. Eliza’s transformation is not as dramatic as upper-class perceptions. She still maintains her independence and self-confidence, even though the change appears on the surface. Eliza is independent and free before she meets Higgins or Pickering. She doesn’t have to rely on anyone else to make her decisions or provide her money. She works every day to earn her own income; no one helps her. She is already superior to her parents because she has come this far on her own. Eliza is a young woman who lives alone, makes her decisions, and doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. And she does all this before she turns twenty. Eliza, however, doesn’t take it lying down. She instead stands up for her feelings, declaring she is “just like everyone else”. Eliza’s exterior changes as she speaks and appears differently. However, her inner fire remains as strong as when the play began. Eliza shows courage when Higgins confronts her, telling him that she doesn’t care what he does to her. Your swearing at ME …. is fine with me. But I will not be left out”. What is she getting for all the hard work that she has done? Nothing. Men didn’t say a word. Eliza has tried so hard, yet Higgins never treats her as a lady. I’ll always be a ‘flower girl’ to Professor Higgins. That is because he treats her like one, and will do for the rest of my life. But to you I can and will be a lady because you treat you like one, and you will. It is said that “if in six month a young flower girl can look like a duchess, she will only be distinguished by her social standing and money. She has not earned either”. This means that any person from a lower social class is the same as anyone from an upper-class background. Eliza makes her own choices and chooses Freddy over Higgins in this capitalist world. Many women found that prostitution was their only option to earn money.

Eliza’s generation was forced to prostitute themselves because it paid more than the average job. They lose their independence because they have to depend on someone else to pay for them, but also their purity since they’re selling themselves. Eliza has no desire to engage in prostitution and is therefore living on the street. Shaw expresses these concerns via Higgins. This character observes: “A woman of Eliza’s class ‘looks an old drudge after she gets married'” and gives a graphic account of Eliza’s future if she returns to the gutter. Higgins tells Eliza to not marry into an upper-class family because it will only make her feel more insecure. Eliza has this in mind when she says that marrying Higgins would mean legal prostitution. She would also be able to get the financial benefits. Eliza is able to overcome the difficulties of prostitution even though many girls are forced into it. Instead of marrying Higgins so she can have all the money, Eliza chooses to marry Freddy. Bernard Shaw demonstrates how women from lower classes can only go so far when living in a society that is capitalist. Eliza herself, who is a strong woman, requires financial support for her flower store. Eliza and Freddy are both poor and have no jobs. Eliza’s strength and independence are not enough for her to find a job. Their solution is to go to the men who are rich: Higgins. Eliza’s and Freddy’s honeymoon would have been a financial disaster if the Colonel had not given Eliza the?500 wedding present. Higgins & Pickering view Eliza equally, but society doesn’t. Eliza won’t be able to further her career, and is likely to end up running a floral shop for her entire life.

Socialism is becoming more popular and more accepted as a counter-attack to capitalism. Socialism’s aim is to create a system of distribution that will allow women and lower-class people to have access to education and basic needs. Socialism would allow workers to own their businesses, which would have a dramatic impact on the economic situation of working-class people. In a capitalism society, the majority of the people who own a company will use their power to make it work for them. Richard Wolff says that the 62 wealthiest people on the planet would still be rich if they gave half of their wealth to charity. To many, this is an obscene act, since these billionaires and millionaires don’t earn their money. Eliza and many others would benefit from more jobs and education if socialism is introduced to today’s capitalism.


  • rosssaunders

    Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

rosssaunders Written by:

Ross Saunders is an educational blogger and professor, who has written extensively on topics such as education reform, online learning, and assessment. He has also spoken on the topic at various conferences and universities.

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