George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion: The Position Of Women In Society

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“I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft The position of women in society has been touched by many authors. This is also the case for George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a play originally published in 1913. It’s not a coincidence that this work was written in the Edwardian era. In this era, women’s rights were practically nonexistent. Women had no political rights, nor did they have a voice in their personal lives and decisions. In Pygmalion, Shaw has borrowed from Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Goethe’s Faust to accentuate the position of women in the Edwardian era. The most obvious reference is the link to one of Ovid’s works, Metamorphoses. Not only does the one of the characters…show more content…
In Faust, the protagonist with an identical name to its’ title, is extremely discontent with his life. The devil, Mephisto, decides to take advantage of the situation and tries to make an offer; he will serve Faust on Earth, in return for his soul in the afterlife. Even though Pygmalion isn’t a religious work as a whole, the audience in the 1910s certainly was religious. Eliza’s position, and indirectly the position of women in the Edwardian era, is closely related to Faust’s situation. Shaw describes that Higgins is “tempting the girl”, exactly like Mephisto tempted Faust. Eliza essentially sells her soul to Higgins and society. The antagonist, in this case the latter, could be seen as a metonymy for the devil. As the story progresses, so does Eliza’s character. The realization of her mistreatment gradually comes to her. At some point, she admits, “I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else. I wish you'd left me where you found me.” The fact that her life is someone else’s property and the fact that she practically didn’t have a voice in society, nor in Higgins’ ways of changing her, clearly demonstrates the congruity between Eliza’s position and the reality for women in the Edwardian
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