Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion primarily highlights the definitive contrast between different levels of modern society. Though people generally accept that there are distinct social classes present in their lives, they rarely consider what makes this distinction so clear. In the play, Shaw illustrates and discusses the defining qualities of two entirely different strata, emphasizing their difference in speech. He also demonstrates that these differences are so dramatic, that a person from one level of society would feel lost in another.
The most evident distinction between two social classes is the amount of money they have, reflected by their standard of living. In this story as well as every-day life, people are all stratified into classes that seem to live in entirely different worlds, complete with their own set of worries and pleasures. While Eliza Doolittle and her community view their trades as ways to scrape up enough money to live, the wealthier Henry Higgins is allowed to view his profession more as a hobby and an obsession. Eliza enjoys the simpler, optimistic thrills in life such as sleeping in a warm bed or making a few pence off a kind stranger so that she can afford a piece of chocolate. In contrast, Higgins is rarely satisfied and only feels a sense of accomplishment once he has achieved a major success. He takes for granted the things that Eliza slaved to have as a poor girl selling flowers on the street. Social class and amount of money therefore often define a person's lifestyle and surroundings.
Shaw also introduces a less-considered, yet equally definitive quality of various social classes, speech patterns. Though few people stop to analyze the inflections and pronunciations of the people around them, Higgins shows that he can use them to discern a person's geographical background and even "place any man within six miles" of his hometown (17). Within the region where Eliza lives, her heavy drawl and tendency to drop her H's are...
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