Pygmalion: George Bernard Shaw and Play sample essay
A problem play is a play in which a number of problems are presented and analyzed thoroughly but no solutions to those problems are provided by the dramatist. Such a play serves as a great irritant to the thought. It is though provoking. the readers are provoked to think over the problem presented in the play and work out their own solutions to those problems. Pygmalion is a problem play in this sense. A number of problems have been presented and discussed; the discussion is thought – provoking; the readers are expected to think for themselves, and work out their own solutions.
Problems created by education The most important problem presented in the play is the problem of education. Eliza Doolittle’s education in phonetics is a difficult problem, but Higgins successfully overcomes the difficulties so much that within six months Eliza can easily pass as foreign princess at an ambassador’s garden party. But her education creates problems for Eliza . she has become a lady and has lost her earlier identity. This problem, this dilemma, this predicament, was foreseen by Mrs.
Pearce in the very act I of the play, and it is foreseen by Mrs. Higgins in act iii of the play. Eliza is confronted with the problem of loss of identity, and alienation, and she must search for belongingness in the new social environment to which she has been raised by her education. She poignantly puts her own problems in the following words: “what am I fit for? What have you left me fit for? Where am I to go? What am I to do? What’s to become of me? ” A word problem As A.
C word puts it, “the problem in Pygmalion, therefore, is like the world – problem of education. to educate is to give (or at least to offer ) new life to those who receive the education , and that new life produces discontent with existing circumstances and creates the desire for a different kind of world . in places where the spread of education has led to personal and social unrest , any teacher might be told , as Eliza tells Higgins replies : “ would the world ever have been made , if its maker had been afraid of making trouble ?
Making life means making trouble” This world- problem is represented in Pygmalion through the medium of a lesser theme which is a national one confined to the English who, wrote Shaw, “have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it” Bernard Shaw was disgusted by the harsh and slovenly speech of many people in England. He blamed this on to English spelling, and he left most of his large fortune to pay the expenses of starting a new English alphabet based on phonetic principles which would provide a separate symbol or sign for each spoken sound, thus enlarging the alphabet considerably.
Shaw believed that this exact representation of sounds, in writing and in print, would bring about correct pronunciation by everyone and break down class- distinctions. The solution to Eliza’s problem But the class distinctions are not so broken in the present play, and so Eliza’s predicament remains. As Higgins takes no further interest in her, she has to work out her own solution. Indications in the play are given that the problem would be solved by marrying Freddy. But he is a weakling and has been brought to no occupation. Eliza herself would have to support him, if she marries him.
Their marriage and after life has not been depicted in the play itself. But the account of their marriage and of their success as florists green grocers has been given in the appendix which Shaw has added to the play and which A. C ward considers to be , “ one of Bernard Shaw’s least successful pieces of writing” . Not all can hope to find generous patrons like Colonel Pickering who, through financial help, would enable them to resolve their problems. Nor are all husbands so responsive and docile as Freddy is, nor are all wives so painstaking, loyal and dedicated as Eliza is.
The natural solution to Eliza’s problem would have been a marriage professor Higgins or colonel Pickering. But they are both “confirmed old bachelors “. Higgins is a victim of Oedipus complex or mother – fixation, and takes no human interest in Eliza. This would have been a proper solution to the problem of Eliza, but this does not happen, and so basically, her problem, as those countless others who face similar predicament remains unsolved. The dramatist has provided no solution, has certainly focused on the problem, and made sit up and think. The problems of Alfred Doolittle
Another problem presented in the play is the predicament of Alfred Doolittle. He was poor, he was considered “an undeserving poor”, and so nothing was done for him by society. Still he was happy in his poverty. He would form time to time get money by “touching” others, i. e. by black – mailing them, and then he would have good time with his mistress. He was quite happy and contented with his life as a poor dustman. His loss of identity But then suddenly, as a result of a joke of Professor Higgins, he acquired large wealth and became one of the newly rich.
He was raised to the status of the middle class. He could no longer be a happy dust man. It became imperative for him to conform to the middle class morality and social code. He had lost his former identity. He was a alienated from his former class and the kind of life he lived as a poor dust man, and he must now acquire a new identity and a new sense of belonging to a higher class. His quest for belongingness He poignantly expresses his problem thus, “who asked to make a gentleman of me? I was happy. I was free.
I “touched” pretty nigh everybody for money when I wanted it , some as I touched you , Enry lggins, now I am worried; tied neck and heels; and everybody “touches” me for money. It’s a fine thing for you, says solicitor. Is it? Says I. you mean it’s a good thing for you, I says. When I was a poor man and had a solicitor once when they found a pram in the dust cart, he got me off, and got shut of me and got me out of him as quick as he could. Same with the doctors; used to shove me out of the hospital before I could hardly stand on my legs, and nothing to pay.
Now they finds out that I’m not healthy man can’t live unless they looks after me twice a day. In the house I’m not let do a hand’s turn for myself: somebody else must do it and touch me for it. A year ago I hadn’t a relative in the world except two or three that would not speak to me. Now I’ve fifty, and not a decent week’s wages among the lot of them. I have to live for others and not for myself; that is middle class morality. You talk of losing Eliza. Don’t you be anxious; I bet she’s on my doorstep by this: she that could support herself easy by selling flowers, if I wasn’t respectable.
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And the next one to touch me will be you, enry iggins. I’ll have to learn to speak middle class language from you, instead of speaking proper English. That’s where you’ll come in : and I daresay that’s what you done it for” Intimidation by middle class morality Further, he must now marry his mistress with whom he was happy so far, but after marriage he would lose happiness, for she would no longer be so docile and obedient as she was in her unwedded state. But middle class morality intimidates him into marrying g her.
He cannot stay in his old ages and so he cannot refuse to accept the wealth that has come to him, for his support and stay in his old age and so he cannot refuse accept it. He must, therefore, acquire the middle class moral code and must try to it, though in the process, he would lose all his happiness. Conclusion Such is the predicament of Alfred Doolittle. The dramatist highlighted his problem and of many others like him, but no solution has been provided. The readers must think for themselves and find out their own respective solution.
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