Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

A Feminist Perspective to Pygmalion/UNE PERSPECTIVE FEMINISTE SUR PYGMALION

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

A Feminist Perspective to Pygmalion/UNE PERSPECTIVE FEMINISTE SUR PYGMALION

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Pygmalion is the representative play by the famous British playwright Bernard Shaw. Up to now, there have been many academic discussions on it from different perspectives. This paper intends to analyze the play from the feminist perspective. From this perspective, we can clearly find that the play is no doubt the creation of woman, either the creation of a duchess from a flower girl, or the creation of a woman from a duchess, in which man is God, the father, and the creator, whereas woman is in the position of a child, a pupil, being corrected, educated and remade by man. The woman character in it is seen only as an object for experiment. Through detailed analysis, the paper exposes how woman figure being pre-patterned, and the position of woman in society being forced to the lowest.

Key words: Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Feminist Perspective

Résumé: Pygmalion est la pièce représentative du célèbre dramaturge anglais Bernard Shaw. Jusqu'à aujourd'hui, il y a eu beaucoup de discussions académiques sur cette pièce dans de différentes perspectives. Cet essai tente de l'analyser dans la perspective féministe. Ainsi, nous trouvons clairement que cette pièce est sans doute la création de la femme, création d'une duchesse à partir d'une fille, ou création d'une femme à partir d'une dechesse, au cours de laquelle l'homme-le père et le créateur- est Dieu, mais la femme est dans la position d'un enfant, un élève qui est corrigée et éduquée par l'homme. La femme est considérée seulement comme un objet d'expérimentation. A la suite de l'analyse en détail, l'essai expose comment la figure de femme est prémodelée et la position sociale de la femme est réduite au plus bas niveau.

Mots-Clés: George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, perspective féministe

In 1912 Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion, the title of which refers to the myth of the sculptor Pygmalion who created and then fell in love with a beautiful statue and whose love enabled the marble to become a live woman, Galatea. Shaw's basic plot line is that of an equally creative language professor, Mr. Higgins, who turns a gutter snipe flower girl into a woman able to pose as a duchess.

Pygmalion became very popular all over the European world as soon as it was brought to stage. In spite of the author's strong objection, the ending was interpreted romantically by the actors and the audience. The audience have reasons to feel very much pleased with the romantic and happy ending because the play is obviously based upon another popular myth- the story of Cinderella. In that fairy tale the poor but virtuous girl is transformed for one night at a ball, meets her Prince Charming and thus turns out to be a princess in truth. Pygmalion, however, has brought this romantic transformation into a more practical and possible one. The ending, as might be accepted by the audience, that Eliza marrying Higgins and settling down to fetch his slippers for him, makes the audience (or the male audience, more probably) feel so satisfied that they must feel they have found the order of the world again.

The plot of the play is no doubt the creation of woman, either the creation of a duchess from a flower girl, or the creation of a woman from a duchess, in which man is God, the father, and the creator, whereas woman is in the position of a child, being corrected and remade by man. From the very beginning of the play, we can see the unequal relationship between man and woman: Man is superior, woman is inferior. In Act 1, when the two protagonists first appear, we can easily find the difference: the male character, the language professor, is an upper-class gentleman, whereas the flower girl is only a " creature" with visible and distinguishing marks of the lower class society. What is more, through the language professor, Shaw expresses his own value of morality and through the lessons Higgins teaches, Shaw intends to teach with his own brand of didacticism. One of these is found in Higgins' first speech to the whining Eliza:

" A woman who utters depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere-no right to live. …

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