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Comparison Pygmalion & Pretty Woman sample essay

The comparative study of Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw and Pretty Woman by Gary Marshall has enhanced my perception of the shared concerns of the two texts. The representation however, is altered by the differing political, historical and social context of the time period of production. Both composers have illuminated the central concerns of the transformations of their female protagonists; Eliza and Vivian from rags to riches while also exploring and criticising the social class division within society. Both composers convey their protagonists as working class citizens who are far from living their dream. Eliza in Pygmalion, a young flower girl who sells flowers in Covent Garden (a place where all social classes come together) is portrayed as a vulnerable, illiterate girl who reassures herself of being worthy of achieving her goals. This is represented when she states “Im a good girl, I am” as it shows that she has faith in herself and that she will do whatever it takes, for one day she may work in a shop of her own. In contrast with Eliza, Gary Marshall characterizes Vivian as a typical American prostitute.

The scene introducing Vivian is set in her cluttered house illustrating her ‘trashy’ and unorganised lifestyle. Marshall uses dark lighting in the nightclub which gives us an overshadowing idea about Vivian’s life being dark and cynical and like Eliza, very vulnerable. Transformation is slowly taking place upon the two girls as Higgins and Edward are introduced into girls’ lives. Higgins helps with Eliza’s phonetics and pronunciation of speech. Eliza is determined to become a ‘lady’ after Higgins is dared to turn her into a duchess and gradually she learns the basics to becoming a lady. The first representation of her progress is at the ‘at home afternoon’ with Higgins’ mother. Here we notice that Eliza has learnt the basic traits of a woman but her vocabulary is not wide enough to keep a conversation. She gets rather carried away and starts to say inappropriate things, for example telling Mrs Higgins “My aunt died of influenza: so they said”.

The concept of transformation also occurs through Vivian in Pretty Woman when Edward hires her for the week and she slowly retains a higher self esteem because he treats her with respect. He buys her clothes to improve her physical appearance and the first real test of her transformation occurs at dinner. She learns how to speak when spoken to and her manners but she still isn’t of high social standing despite whether she looks it or not. This is displayed when she tries to pick up her snail and it slips out of her tongs and she quite confidently but embarrassingly states “slippery little suckers”. We see eventually a great change in both women in the two texts from where they started off from. The end of the transformation for Eliza is in the last scene when she is at Mrs Higgins’ house after not accepting the way Higgins treated her.

She now is strong enough to stand up for herself against Higgins and states “And I should like Professor Higgins to call me Miss Doolittle”. For Vivian, it is when Edward has to go back to New York and they have to end their ‘relationship’ and Edward says “I would really like to see you again” and then Vivian says “What else? You’ll leave some money by the bed when you pass through town?” It completes her transformation as she no longer will let anyone boss her around. Although both women transformed, there was still many aspects of them that would never change. Vivian still speaks her mind, as does Eliza because that’s how the girls were taught and brought up. Bernard Shaw uses language features in Pygmalion to highlight the journey and transformation of Eliza. Set in the Victorian Era, there is a large gap between working and high social classes and Eliza’s goal is to speak, walk, and look like a lady from the Upper class.

The difference in the way the two classes speak is outstanding, with Eliza’s vocabulary reaching a maximum of a few words, Shaw conveys her as being very improper. This is established when she says “Ow, eez, yœ-ooa san, is e?” as it becomes clear that she does not speak very good English. Whereas Higgins, a member of the high class uses such vocabulary as “Not me Governor, thank you kindly” The main ideas and themes include the clear distinction between the social classes and how they respond and react when in the presence of another. The Victorian Era influenced modern society in how people were placed in a hierarchy. In comparison to Pygmalion, Pretty Woman was set in the 1980s America, which is a lot more modern than Victorian Era. Pretty Woman’s main themes consist of being highly sexualised, corporate greed and wealth.

Like Pygmalion, there is an outstanding overarching hierarchy which separates the classes. Vivian is a prostitute in Hollywood which displays the sense of insecurities in herself and also the people around her. Edward helps her transform into a lady without her even realizing it. She speaks of very low concern and thought of others, using lines such as “I can do anything I want, I’m not lost” and “I can’t believe you bought drugs with our rent, what is wrong with you?” The transformation of the two girls is completed by the end of the text but it also shows that as much as they try to become members of the higher class, they will always still have the traits of the lower class. Overall, the two texts enhanced my perception of the social, historical and political values by comparing the two Eras and will always get good reviews because they contain a wide variety or circumstances.

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