Pygmalion as Problem Play
The play highlights many relevant social problems in the society of its time. There is a range of social differences when it comes to people and it leads off a difference of opportunities and access to resources.
Eliza starts as a simple girl who sells flowers and then goes on to learn the ways of aristocratic women. However, she does not have family wealth and depends on others for money.
In the end, she decides to open an extravagant flower shop with the help of her husband. This also shows the issues and obstacles that a woman faces when it comes to realizing their true potential and talents.
The play offers a solution through a middle ground where men and women should be treated the same in terms of their abilities and talents and encouraged to develop them the same.
However, it does not include the differences between people who cannot be overlooked when it comes to making such broad generalizations.
Pygmalion as Feminist Play
The play highlights various feministic trends like the empowerment of women through the independence of work and non-traditional roles as entrepreneurs and decision-makers.
However, it also sticks to their traditional roles as mothers, householders and domestic workers. The play tries to make a case for affording equal opportunities to men and women but does not make clear suggestions as to how to make it happen.
In terms of feministic ideology, the play appeals to the criticism of patriarchal society which treats women with contempt and different standards than men. From Mrs. Higgins to Mrs.
Pearce and Eliza women are shown to be strong-minded and opinionated but have to depend on men who still control their lives and decisions.
However, much like a feministic critique, there is no clear alternative to the existent social arrangement or solutions to better it.
Pygmalion as Anti Romantic Play
The play does not have a romantic happy ending. Much of the play builds an expectation that Higgins and Eliza have feelings toward each other and will eventually end up together as a romantic couple.
Pickering and Mrs. Pearce can sense a level of attraction between the two and the readers are told about their quarrels and tiffs much like in the case of two lovers. Even the Greek legend of Pygmalion had romantic core and the anticipation is only heightened through Act IV.
However, by the end of the play, we realize that Mr. Higgins is a lonely and cynical man who does not want companionship and Eliza is ready to move on with Freddy and ends up living a happy and affectionate life with him.
Thus, contrary to the expectation, the play is not about romance. It presents a case for being an anti-romantic play. Shaw justifies such an unexpected culmination by telling us that Higgins and Eliza were just too temperamental and opinionated to end up together.