Back to: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Table of Contents
The play highlights the importance of society places of education. Characters like Higgins are intellectual and intelligent and use their gifts of education to study people and even help them to better their ways. Eliza is shown to be an immaculate student and learn to become a truly remarkable young woman.
However, there is also criticism of formal education. It can lead to arrogance and a false sense of superiority. Higgins is dismissive of almost everyone in the play apart from Pickering.
He mocks other people’s priorities or quirks and is quick to judge their actions and speech. Thus, education can sometimes lead to arrogance which in turn limits a person’s ability to learn further or improve. One needs to remain humble to accept one’s faults and to correct them.
The story talks about different gender roles and standards. Higgins holds women to a really high standard and thus is never satisfied by any woman. In his pursuit to mold Eliza, he ends up creating a false ideal that can never be matched.
Other female characters like Mrs. Pearce and Mrs. Higgins are shown to be strong-minded and opinionated but they are limited to their domestic spaces. Eliza, even after becoming an entrepreneur, is dependent on her husband.
Alternatively, she can live with her father and depend on a different man. Thus, the story paints a grim picture when viewed through a feministic lens.
However, it highlights the interdependence of men and women and that there must be different roles when it comes to the veritable differences between men and women. Often, the idea of absolute independence is purported to overlook such differences and interdependence.
The story shows the importance of family. From the Higginses to the Hills, families are shown to be strong and supportive. The disjointed family of Eliza also highlights the lack of such protection in the case of dysfunctional families.
The story does not only point to the benefits of strong and close family ties but also shows the dangers and limitations in the absence of the same.
The idea of independence often overlooks such inherent dependence that people need on their family members and even friends. Also, the term family means more than just blood relations as shown by a stronger bond between Eliza and Pickering and Eliza and her Alfred Doolittle.
Based on the Greek legend, the play is all about how Higgins creates her version of Eliza that becomes a standard-bearer for all women. Higgins is deeply attached to her because he treats her like her masterpiece where Eliza feels attached to him as he is his teacher and mentor.
However, the play also discusses the issue of ownership and command. Higgins feels a need to control his creation where Eliza feels entitled to make her own decisions.
In the end, Eliza chooses Freddy over staying with Higgins even though he offers to support her. This shows the distinct nature of the creation of its creator.