Pygmalion: Transform and Eliza

Jackson Wise English 4 4A October 15 2012 Metamorphoses in Pygmalion Pygmalion is a play written by George Bernard Shaw that is based on a poem called Metamorphoses, written by Ovid. The play and the poem are very similar in the themes, but the actual stories are not alike. Ovid’s version of Pygmalion is about a sculpture and its creator who falls in love with a woman who he created and brings her to life. Shaw’s version of Pygmalion is about a low-class flower girl who is turned into a beautiful, polite lady. Although the play and the poem are fairly different, the theme is the same.
The main theme for Pygmalion is that transformation is possible for anyone through hard work. Eliza, Higgins and Mr. Doolittle all go through different kinds of transformation (Yeates). Pygmalion is a Cinderella story about how Eliza Doolittle goes through a drastic transformation from a street person to appearing as a duchess. Eliza, as the main character, is described as a nasty looking person working on the streets as a flower girl. Her clothes are torn, her hair needs washing, and she is very dirty compared to other ladies.
However, her distinguishing characteristic that draws Henry Higgins’ attention is her horrible accent while struggling to speak proper English. Eliza is a good girl; there is no discussion of lack of morals or criminal behavior in her. She wants to improve herself, she hopes to transform into a lady (Pygmalion). She meets a man named Henry Higgins who offers English speech lessons. She goes to Higgins with high hopes but is treated terribly. To Higgins, Eliza reminds him of trash; “Shall we ask this baggage to sit down or shall we throw her out of the window? (Shaw 59) Higgins thinks it over and makes a bet to a man named Pickering, saying that he could completely change this flower girl into a beautiful, polite lady. Their result is a metamorphosis. She has been transformed into a lady; she has manners, behavior, and diction. Higgins and Pickering want to show off their success with Eliza, so they all go to a ball. Eliza comes in looking like a princess. She dances the special waltz and many people guess that she is royal Hungarian blood. She even convinces Neppomuck, a European phonetics expert. Another transformation in this play is the changing of Mr.

Higgins. Higgins is an arrogant, stubborn bachelor with no use for women, who transforms throughout the story. He claims that she was simply a challenge: “Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day. I shall make a duchess out of this drag tailed guttersnipe” (Shaw 62). Higgins does transform and slowly starts to like having her around. He becomes accustomed to her and grows fond of her, but will not swallow his pride to keep her. He is mean spirited and cruel to Liza throughout the play; he is probably cruelest to himself since his pride makes him lose her.
The last transformation in this play is Eliza’s father. Mr. Doolittle also transforms along with Eliza and Higgins. He is originally a poor, low-class man who tries to sell his daughter to Higgins. Higgins gives him money for Liza, and in the end of the play, Mr. Doolittle comes back to Higgins upset. He is mad that he has forced himself into the middle class: “Done to me. Ruined Me. Destroyed my happiness. Tied me up and delivered me into the hands of middle class morality” (Shaw 190). So, two of the men were unintentionally transformed.
Transformation is the significant theme of the play and myth, Pygmalion. In Ovid’s poem/myth, transformation is displayed by how in love the sculptor is with his woman statue that eventually is transformed into a real woman from the help of the mythical god Venus. A metamorphosis is expressed in more than three ways in Pygmalion and it is also displayed in the myth as well. The three characters discussed all experience transformation. Eliza worked so hard to become the proper flower shop lady she dreamed of being. Higgins changed in spite of his stubbornness.
Mr. Doolittle developed a conscious and maybe “did a little”. These three types of metamorphosis show that anyone of any class can learn and work to change. Works Cited “Pygmalion”. Encyclop? dia Britannica. Encyclop? dia Britannica Online. Encyclop? dia Britannica Inc. , 2012. Web. 16 Oct. 2012 <http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/484565/Pygmalion>. Shaw, Bernard. Pygmalion. New York: Brentano, 1916 Yeates, Amelia “Recent work on Pygmalion in Nineteenth-Century Literature” The Author. Journal Compilation Volume 7, Issue 7, pages 586–596, July 2010

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