Pygmalion Review

Lauren Conn 06/07/2012 Writer’s Workshop Bill Rubenstein Pygmalion Movie Review Based off of Shaw’s 1913 stage comedy, Pygmalion is the story of two mismatched lovers Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. The story centers on Henry Higgins’ mission to change Eliza Doolittle from a street vendor to a lady. It would be frivolous to comment on the treatment of women, as we are forced to take into account the period in which this play was written. Pygmalion is just another reflection of the objectification of women during those times, a representation on how women can be “changed” to the whim of man and the society man governs.
Nevertheless, my intent is not to apply modern value judgments to non-contemporary fiction. I have dissected the play and made an attempt to understand the context in which it was written and presented. All I came to find was a story about a young woman who lost her identity. Henry Higgins is a wealthy phonetics professor who makes a bet with his friend Col. Pickering that he can transform Eliza Doolittle, an uncouth Cockney flower girl, into a lady in three months. Henry compares her to a “squashed cabbage leaf”.
During her lessons she’s put through ridiculous tasks to perfect her elocution, such as speaking with marbles in her mouth. Higgins seems relentless, an example being when Eliza swallows a marble and he states, “That’s alright, we have plenty more. ” Eliza’s first test comes when she takes tea with Henry’s mother – during which becomes a blunder when Eliza rambles about her father’s drinking and the whereabouts of her deceased aunt’s straw hat. Throughout these odd experiments one has to question why Doolittle proceeds to let Higgins treat her as he does.
One can be Freudian and claim that it is her drunkard father, who holds no more regard to her than an inanimate object, in which provides evidence enough to Eliza’s decrepit state of self-worth. By the end of these trials Doolittle becomes a success, a lady – but not without losing the essence of who she is. By becoming a lady, Eliza has thrown herself into a state of limbo. She is no longer a Cockney flower girl, but calling herself a lady would be a lie. Instead, Eliza has been transformed into a shell – a canvas to which Higgins painted the portrait.
Shaw makes a vain attempt into transforming Eliza into a self-empowered woman by the end of this. We are expected to believe that at some point, the hapless street vendor surpasses Higgins – the master professor. In a way, this almost seems like Shaw’s justification to Eliza’s harsh treatment. For me personally, I was not swayed. I did not believe in her strength by the end of Pygmalion. To me, Eliza’s self-empowered identity as a new “phonetics” master is just a mask to hide the lack of identity within.

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