Social Classes in the Play Pygmalion

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Social Classes in the Play Pygmalion

The play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw depicts people’s ability to advance through the society regardless of the social distinctions that exist. Shaw reflects a society that is divided by wealth, education and language. He also shows how the social class gap can be broke through the transforming a flower girl, Eliza Dolittle, who assumes the role of a duchess after she receives language training from a language professor called Henry Higgens (Amkpa, 1999).

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Within each group in the play, there are distinctions between the rich and the poor, which is characterized by a rigid social class. The characters in the high-class status were primarily concerned with maintaining their class distinctions. For example, Higgins feels Eliza should marry someone of the more upper-class status rather than marrying Freddy (Shaw & Ward, 1931).  Therefore, the manner in which social class differences are enforced is through manners and proper codes of behavior. This paper addresses the workings of the system of social class based on the elements of Marxism while trying to expose some of its problems in the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

The characters in the play can be categorized into a high class, upper middle class, and lower middle class. The behavioral differences between these classes are noticeable, but Higgins and Pickering do not know they are putting Eliza and themselves in a tough situation. Pickering is polite and too caring just like Higgins; however, he does not allow anyone to tell him what to say or how to act. Higgins character can be characterized as greedy and manipulative, which makes him fit the Marxist theory of bourgeoisie since he aims to exploit the working class to fulfill his personal needs (Shaw, 2018).  One of the behaviors of the high class is the lack of compassion for others, something that characterizes Higgins behavior. For example, in Act II, Higgins states that Well when I am done with her, we can throw her back into the gutter; and then it will be her own business again (Shaw & Ward, 1931).  Such an attitude targeted Eliza’s future and showed how Higgins is interested in the working class only if he can use and exploit them, and what happens to the workers is the least of his concern, just as the bourgeois. Therefore, Higgins is a classic example of the bourgeoisie as he uses Eliza as a commodity to win his bet. However, Higgins may not seem much heartless as perceived since in Act V he states that About you, not about me. If you come back, I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I cannot change my nature, and I do not intend to change my manners. My manners are the same as Colonel Pickering’s (Shaw &

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