The anti-romantic elements in Shaw’s “Pygmalion”.

November 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

The play Pygmalion can be viewed through the lens of an anti romantic play. From the beginning itself Shaw creates a notion on the reader’s mind that, the play will end up in the union of Professor Higgins and flower girl Eliza. But what happened was quiet opposite of the expectation. It is the title Pygmalion which sows the seeds of this notion in the readers mind, for they are familiar with the story of Pygmalion from the Greek classic. In the Greek classic the Pygmalion, the sculptor, who vows never to marry, but he falls in love with a girl’s statue that he has made, as the answer to the prayer of Pygmalion, God infuses the statue with life, and Pygmalion marries that girl called Galatea. Since Shaw’s play has the title Pygmalion, readers expect the same repetition of Greek classic here in Shaw’s play.

In Shaw’s play, Professor Higgins is the Pygmalion, who determined to polish the flower girl Eliza’s appearance and attitude and make her a lady. Eliza is the Galatea here. But she doesn’t get the affection and love from Higgins like Galatea experienced from Pygmalion. To Professor Higgins, Eliza was a tool for his experiment. His attempt to transform the flower girl Eliza to a charming beauty becomes a massive success when Eliza is mistaken as a Hungarian princess. But unlike the legendary Pygmalion Professor Higgins does not fall in love with the charming beauty of Eliza. He doesn’t dream a life with Eliza like Pygmalion. Neither does she lose her heart to him.

In the sequel after the fifth act of the play, Shaw clearly explains why marriage between Higgins and Eliza did not happen and should not happen. According to him such an end would indicate nothing but “lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me downs of rag-shop in which Romance keeps its stock of happy ending to misfit all stories.” Shaw indicates that any woman who attempts to steal his heart will find the dice loaded against her, for his mother, with her personal grace, intelligence and dignity of character, has set a high standard before him. The nobility of his mother and its influence on him make him expect the same standard in the woman who he is going to marry. But reaching that level of dignity of character and intelligence is almost an impossible task for any woman. Moreover Higgins posses a domineering temperament and he likes to lord it on others. Eliza is a girl who doesn’t like to be ruled or controlled by anybody. Therefore she chooses Freddy who will certainly a good life partner for her, who can satisfy all her concepts. Since he doesn’t have a dictator type character like Higgins, obviously Eliza’s life will be happy and comfortable with him. Had she chosen Higgins as the expectations of the readers, their life would not have gone happily and resulted in separation.

Shaw processed an anti romantic temperament. Almost all the readers of the play feel that if the play had ended in the union of Eliza and Higgins, the play would have been far better than what it is now. The explanation for Eliza’s preference of Freddy to Higgins led the play to an unnatural and unconvincing end. The play seems to have developed contrary to Shaw’s predetermined conclusion. The last two acts are concerned largely with the emotional crisis in Eliza. If Higgins is secondary interest for her, she will not make herself indispensable to him. For all his arrogance, he has become dependent on her. Shaw has created an aura of romance around them. He stresses that Eliza is brimming with the vigor of youth and has the whole world to choose from. A. C. Ward points out,” although Higgins and Eliza might not have lived happily Ever After as the heroes and heroines of fairy tales usually do, they would certainly have been better matched then Eliza and the feeble Freddy could be”.

When the plot of a play moves in a different way from expectations, it becomes more interesting. It increases curiosity in the readers. But the same time it will invite criticism and appreciations from many corners. If fact the final twist is a victory of the playwright over the prejudiced minds of readers. Shaw was ready to face all the consequence of this. In his determination to make his Romance an unromantic, Shaw twisted the story of his play from what should have been, by the principles of drama, its natural end.

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