In Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw utilizes his protagonist Eliza to represent not only a gender or social role; but more in particular, how quickly those can all change. Although judged and cast as inferior for her job selling flowers alongside her almost indecipherable language, Eliza is completely transformed into a lady. Yet, interestingly it is not her actions that make her feel lady-like, but it is in how she is treated where she feels the most like a woman. Shaw becomes the “watchdog of society” by poking at the upper class’s prejudices over the lower class. Through Eliza’s change, he proves society wrong.
He shows that the lower class does not have holds or limitations. They are not stuck where there are at and in fact, if willing, they can come to reach any potential, even one’s that are greater than those above them. Eliza soon realizes speaking properly, the use of manners, and dressing the role of a duchess are all actually the easy factors in becoming a lady. She tells Mr. Pickering, “it was just like learning to dance in the fashionable way, there was nothing more than that in it.
” She goes on to say that her “real education” began when Mr. Pickering acknowledged her as Miss Doolittle, “that was the beginning of self-respect for me. To Eliza it’s the little things, such as Pickering taking off his boots before he enters the room, things Mr. Higgins would not dare to do while in her presence—a presence of a lady. Eliza continues to make her point by saying, “I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will. ” Shaw makes a clear point that audiences then and now should acknowledge. Treating a person with respect, all social classes aside, especially if it is a woman, is everything.
And it means everything to that person. That is the real difference at stake between social classes here. Now that she is a woman of high-class stature, a different set of gender roles apply. While arguing with Higgins on what she is to do after this whole experiment, he simply suggests that she get married. He offers the services of his mother to find her a willing bachelor. Eliza replies, “I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made me a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else. ” At the time, the only profession of real ladies was to get married and to be a wife. Shaw addresses this gender xpectation by showing that Eliza was free to do whatever she wanted before she became a lady. Now a lady, she must get married. Shaw reveals that upper-class women are almost more so restricted in their gender roles than those of the lower class. Lastly, Shaw completes Eliza’s transformation by revealing that she has better manners than Doctor Higgins himself. She successfully pulls off being a duchess, whereas Higgins could never be fooled for a duke. He is far too messy, rude, and ill-behaved. Eliza, the lower class girl who once sold flowers on the street corner reached it to the higher-class society.
She became a lady and in doing so she even surpassed her teacher, Doctor Higgins. Shaw illustrates that anything is possible. The potential of a person can stretch as far as they are willing to go and beyond any social classes. George Bernard Shaw’s character Eliza embodies hope for the lower class to gain respect. He also makes it especially matter because she is a woman. Her role in society outside of any class should not merely be becoming a wife; there should be endless possibilities because she is capable of anything and has proven that through her transformation. In a way, Shaw is taking a stand for the lower class.
The upper-class places too many prejudices and treats them as such. Shaw’s purpose is to take away these prejudices. Eliza was still the same Eliza after the clothes, the manners, and the transformation of her speech. What it really came down to was how others treated her, that is what made her feel like a lady. Shaw makes an extremely valid point that everyone, regardless of class, reacts and basis their own beliefs about themselves based on how others treat them. He works off the golden rule: “treat others as you would want to be treated” and for that he serves as a watchdog of society.