The Pygmalion

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Canadian Social Science

Vol.2 No.2 June 2006

A Feminist Perspective to Pygmalion
U NE PERSPECTIVE FEMINISTE SUR PYGMALION
Chen Lihua1
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 réprésentative 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
1

English Dept.Central China Normal University, China.
*Received 2 February 2006 ; accepted 10 March 2006

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...
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