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Social Classes Speaking And Inequality Of Social Status In Pygmalion

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George Bernard Shaw’s, chronicle, Pygmalion, is one of the festinated romantic dramatic comedies in English. Shaw’s play demonstrates and explores aspects of language in a variety of ways of social classes speaking and inequality of social status and how silliness of class. A silly Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, is a heroine character of the play who has a dream to become a florist not just a flower girl who sells flowers at Tottenham Court Road. In Shaw’s dialogue, her monologues are filled with passion. Shaw’s Pygmalion uses motif for Eliza to make her character outstanding than others. Her psychological trauma and emotions contrary to the society of all social classes, especially Henry Higgins, the upper-class morality who is Eliza’s teacher and antagonist.

Mr. Higgins is using Eliza as a tool to demonstrate his cultural capital or his social status. Whereas, other people’s interpretation of the play “ promote equal opportunity to education as a cure for social inequality: both a means for those of humble origins to improve their lot, and a means for would-be reformers to promote social justice” (Porten 74). Lili Porten criticizes that the education of Eliza to place in the upper class in Shaw’s Pygmalion is seemingly a failure. The lower social class tends to have less cultural capital, whereas, the upper-middle social class has more. According to Porten, “cultural capital is hollow and criteria of merit arbitrary, [since] equal opportunity cannot remedy social inequity” (83). The higher class tends to dominate culture. For instance, Henry makes Eliza a product or merchandise for upper-class morality. He is using her as a tool to promote his cultural capital to all upper-class morality. However, according to one of the notetakers, “despite the fact that Porten's thesis is the failure of education to help Eliza achieve her greatest goals, she states that this education does help somewhat because it does take her out of the gutter” (Latina Fink A 102 Blog).

Kimberly Bohman-Kalaja’s critique in Shaw’s Pygmalion is associated with discrimination and segregation of Irish and British society. In Pygmalion, Shaw uses Eliza Doolittle to criticize British society. Additionally, Bohman-Kalaja criticizes the heroine character of Eliza as the “passing”

In the play, Eliza does not believe and trust a humble common dustman, Alfred Doolittle, a father of the flower girl, Eliza, and he does not seem to show fatherly love at all. The relationship between them is like an acquaintance. Although they both are lower-class moralities from Wimpole Street, they seem to hate each other. Additionally, she is abandoned by him and her stepmother. In Act II, Alfred takes advantage of her daughter to collect money from Higgins to allow Eliza to stay with Higgins because he thinks that Higgins seems to interest in her. Eliza did not know if her father was approaching behind her. Higgins is told by Eliza that her father is a liar and “[a]ll [Alfred] come[s] here for was to touch [Higgins] for some money to get drunk on” (Pygmalion II, 30, 18-19, emphasis added). He always does to other people like filching or looting money from their pockets. Besides, her attitude towards Alfred is in a negative view; she is disappointed in him because “Hes [sic] a disgrace to [Eliza], he is, collecting dust instead of working at his trade” (Pygmalion II, 31, 2-3). He has never cared for her as a daughter, what he cares about is money. Therefore, “Doolittle does not want to be a part of Liza’s life” (Christine, Fink A 102 Blog). She cannot make money for him and she is a failure daughter. However, Eliza’s metamorphosis has changed from lower class to middle-upper class the way she talks differently to her father; she treads her father indifferently as well

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Colonel Pickering, a side character of a gentleman, treats Eliza kindly and courtesy like a lady by calling her Miss Doolittle, not as Higgins who is always bullying her. Her attitude towards Pickering is very positive. Pickering treats her to respect herself and makes a wage of her: “[Pickering]’ll bet [Higgins] all the expenses of the experiment...And [Pickering]’ll pay for the lesson” (Pygmalion II, 16, 8-9). Colonel shows his courtesy as a gentleman in front of Eliza and she appreciates it; the way he speaks to her is like a duchess, and it is related to Eliza’s emotions and feelings. However, when Eliza has transformed from a flower girl to a lady, she always calls him “Colonel Pickering” as his full name to show her respectfulness. Eliza recapitulates her admiration to Pickering:

...It was from you that I learnt [sic] really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isnt [sic] it? You see it was so very difficult for me with the example of Professor Higgins always before me. I was brought up to be just like him, unable to control myself, and using bad language on the slightest provocation. And I should never have known that ladies and gentlemen didnt [sic] behave like that if you hadnt [sic] been there.

She knows how to act like a lady and thanks him for teaching her to become a proper lady; she “shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treated [Eliza] as a flower girl...; but I know I can be a lady to you, because [Pickering] always treat me as a lady” (Pygmalion V, 63, 39-42). She is treated differently from Higgins, and this heroine desires Colonel Pickering to call her “Eliza” instead of Miss Doolittle because their relationship is beyond a teacher and pupil.

Henry Higgins exemplifies Eliza as the main component and subject of his experiment, nothing more. she becomes a Henry Higgins’ pupil and learns high society manners. Although Eliza wants to learn proper English to get a job at a flower shop, Higgins wants to transform her into a sophisticated lady to proof himself--to upper-class morality--as the greatest in his profession. In the early scene, the relationship between them was incompatibility relation. He treats her badly all the time; Eliza is hurt by his verbal attack. Thus, she is not the mere victim of his verbal abuse. Therefore, she uses the motif to protect herself: “I am a good girl, I am.” He is such a haughty person; she dislikes his words and will protest unreasonable against him. It is bearable for them to live together in their perspectives.

In Act IV, the conflict of the relationship between Higgins and Eliza begins to prevail. It shows that they lose their tempers for each other, especially Eliza’s pride as a little girl is insulted and demolished; Higgins is being offended by her after she throws his slippers at his face: “[b]ecause I wanted to smash your face. I’d like to kill you, you [sic] selfish brute” (Pygmalion IV, 50, 5-6). Higgins never appreciated anything for what she has done. This is the climate scene of the play in their relationship because at the early dialogue, he calms, and her situation seems to be controlled. At the end of Act V, when they are having a vast argument, and Eliza is far from to go back to the “gutter,” Mr. Higgins brings Frederick Eynsford Hill, who is known as Freddy, into their conversation; his insulting is associated with Freddy’s education. Then, he does not want Eliza—who is his masterpiece from his experiments—to marry Freddy because he is a viable marriage option for her. She said, “I’ll marry Freddy, I will, as soon as hes [sic] able to support me” (Pygmalion V, 70, 33-34). She declares her feeling toward Henry because Freddy might interest and care about her and treats her differently. For this reason, a day after the Eynsford Hill family left in Act III, Freddy is “pouring out his love for her daily through the post” (Pygmalion 74). Freddy keeps sending a love letter to her every day; he becomes a love stick for Eliza. However, she decides to leave his house, as a result, Higgins feels the triumph and satisfy.

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Social Classes Speaking And Inequality Of Social Status In Pygmalion. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Social Classes Speaking And Inequality Of Social Status In Pygmalion.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
Social Classes Speaking And Inequality Of Social Status In Pygmalion. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Social Classes Speaking And Inequality Of Social Status In Pygmalion [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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