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DRAMA II Modern Drama. Lecture 23. SYNOPSIS. Themes of Pygmalion (Conti …) 2. Theme of Transformation 3. Theme of Identity 4. Theme of Appearance 5. Theme of Manipulation. Themes. PYGMALION. Themes. 2. Theme of Transformation.

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synopsis
SYNOPSIS
  • Themes of Pygmalion (Conti…)
  • 2. Theme of Transformation
  • 3. Theme of Identity
  • 4. Theme of Appearance
  • 5. Theme of Manipulation
themes

Themes

PYGMALION

2 theme of transformation
2. Theme of Transformation
  • This one may seem like a no-brainer: Pygmalion's all about turning a poor girl into a duchess, right? Well, sure, and Eliza's metamorphosis is stunning.
  • You could even go so far as to call it a Cinderella story. But remember: Cinderella turned back into a poor girl before she finally found her prince.
  • Pay attention and you'll notice that not all the attempts at transformation here are successful. There are plenty of false starts and false endings. By play's end, Shaw's made one thing very clear: be careful what you wish for.
2 theme of transformation dramatic reference status divide
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Status Divide

Quote #THE NOTE TAKER. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. This is an age of upstarts. Men begin in Kentish Town with 80 pounds a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths. Now I can teach them— (1.120)

Moving up in society can require a complete transformation; money, it seems, can't buy everything.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference perceptions
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Perceptions

Quote #The flower girl enters in state. She has a hat with three ostrich feathers, orange, sky-blue, and red. She has a nearly clean apron, and the shoddy coat has been tidied a little. The pathos of this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air, touches Pickering, who has already straightened himself in the presence of Mrs. Pearce. (2.21)

What seems like an honest attempt at "looking respectable" to Eliza seems merely pitiful to Pickering. Not all transformations are successful, and sometimes the failure to change can be more affecting than success.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference environmental suitability
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Environmental suitability

Quote #[[Doolittle] hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don't you know your own daughter? (2.289-290)

Given the right circumstances, even the most superficial adjustment can lead to a profound and surprising change.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference over ambition
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Over ambition

Quote #PICKERING. We're always talking Eliza.HIGGINS. Teaching Eliza.PICKERING. Dressing Eliza.MRS. HIGGINS. What!HIGGINS. Inventing new Elizas. (3.226-244)

Pickering and Higgins, caught up in the process of "inventing new Elizas," seem to have forgotten that she is a human being just as they are.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference fear of unknown
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Fear of Unknown

Quote #LIZA [pulling herself together in desperation] What am I fit for? What have you left me fit for? Where am I to go? What am I to do? What's to become of me? (4.60)

Having achieved her goal and won the bet, Eliza finds that her metamorphosis has left her confused. Having just "become" something new, she is already afraid of what will come next.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference control of emotion
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Control of Emotion

Quote #HIGGINS [with dignity, in his finest professional style] You have caused me to lose my temper: a thing that has hardly ever happened to me before. I prefer to say nothing more tonight. I am going to bed. (4.89)

Higgins, so used to being in control, is disappointed and frustrated to find himself losing hold of his emotions. He, the transformer, has become the transformed, if only momentarily.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference control of manner
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Control of Manner

Quote #Eliza enters, sunny, self-possessed, and giving a staggeringly convincing exhibition of ease of manner. She carries a little work-basket, and is very much at home. Pickering is too much taken aback to rise.LIZA. How do you do, Professor Higgins? Are you quite well?HIGGINS [choking] Am I— [He can say no more]. (5.115-117)

Here, once again, Higgins is stunned to find that his "creation" is now able to control and change her manner with ease. That said, Shaw's use of the word "exhibition" casts the truth of that change in doubt.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference subjectivity
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Subjectivity

Quote #Eliza. You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will. (5.143)

Ironically, Eliza argues that the man who taught her to be a lady will never see her or treat her as one. She also suggests that transformation is subjective, that not all people will acknowledge all changes.

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference nature
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference | Nature

Quote #HIGGINS. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can't change my nature; and I don't intend to change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering's. (5.191)

In claiming that he can't change his own nature, Higgins complicates his own claims about change and transformation; if he can't change his nature, we have to wonder, how can he really understand how to change someone else's?

2 theme of transformation dramatic reference confidence
2. Theme of TransformationDramatic Reference| Confidence

Quote #HIGGINS. Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you were like a millstone round my neck. Now you're a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl. (5.265)

Higgins acts as though he were waiting for Eliza's final act of defiance the whole the time; it is hard to say, however, whether his confidence is as great as he makes it seem.

questions about transformation
Questions About Transformation

Higgins and Pickering tell Mrs. Higgins that Eliza is an incredibly quick learner. They even call her a genius. Who, then, deserves more credit for Eliza's transformation: Eliza herself, because of her potential intelligence, or Higgins, for bringing it out?

questions about transformation1
Questions About Transformation

Why is Higgins so keen on teaching Eliza? Can we ever really understand his real motives? If so, what are they?

pygmalion 3 theme of identity
Pygmalion 3. Theme of Identity
  • Every single day we talk about ourselves, saying "I did this," "I did that," "I am," and "I'm not," but we don't usually think about what "I" means.
  • In Pygmalion, Shaw forces us to think this through. Some characters want to change who they are, others don't want to change at all.
  • Things get even more complicated when identities are made up, constructed. The play wants us to ask ourselves what I really means to think about different versions of the self, and whether that self can ever really be changed.
3 theme of identity dramatic reference prejudice
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Prejudice
  • Even the things we do to establish a connection with unfamiliar people and things – like using slang or nicknames – can end up causing confusion and cases of mistaken identity.

Quote #THE MOTHER. Now tell me how you know that young gentleman's name.THE FLOWER GIRL. I didn't.THE MOTHER. I heard you call him by it. Don't try to deceive me.THE FLOWER GIRL [protesting] Who's trying to deceive you? I called him Freddy or Charlie same as you might yourself if you was talking to a stranger and wished to be pleasant. [She sits down beside her basket]. (1.41-44)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference insecurity
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Insecurity
  • Eliza seems extremely insecure about her own identity and character. She fears that even the smallest offense will lead people to look at her and treat her differently.

Quote #THE FLOWER GIRL [springing up terrified] I ain't done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I've a right to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. [Hysterically] I'm a respectable girl: so help me, I never spoke to him except to ask him to buy a flower off me […] They'll take away my character and drive me on the streets for speaking to gentlemen. They— (1.59)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference minor details
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Minor Details
  • We see here that identity can be determined by something as small as a pair of boots.

Quote #THE BYSTANDER. It's all right: he's a gentleman: look at his boots. [Explaining to the note taker] She thought you was a copper's nark, sir. (1.61)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference gender specific attitudes
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference |Gender Specific Attitudes
  • Judging Eliza by her slovenly appearance, Higgins treats Eliza like an object instead of a human being. His comment is no doubt sarcastic, but it tells us something about his attitude toward women.

Quote #HIGGINS. Pickering: shall we ask this baggage to sit down or shall we throw her out of the window? (2.30)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference uncertainty
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Uncertainty
  • Eliza seems to have grown up without a feminine presence in her life, and she's proud to have turned out all right anyway. Perhaps this pride is what leads her to keep claiming she's a "good girl."

Quote #LIZA. I ain't got no mother. Her that turned me out was my sixth stepmother. But I done without them. And I'm a good girl, I am. (2.118)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference stereotypes
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Stereotypes
  • Eliza attempts again to define herself in contrast to stereotypes. She wants to make it clear that she's not simply looking for handouts; still, it's hard for her to look dignified in her dirty clothes.

Quote #LIZA. No: I don't want no gold and no diamonds. I'm a good girl, I am. [She sits down again, with an attempt at dignity]. (2.145)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference fallacies
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Fallacies
  • Higgins stereotypes Eliza as a poor person and simply assumes that she has a drinking problem.

Quote #HIGGINS. Oh, pay her whatever is necessary: put it down in the housekeeping book. [Impatiently] What on earth will she want with money? She'll have her food and her clothes. She'll only drink if you give her money.LIZA [turning on him] Oh you are a brute. It's a lie: nobody ever saw the sign of liquor on me. [She goes back to her chair and plants herself there defiantly]. (2.121-122)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference object vs subject
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Object vs. Subject

Quote #HIGGINS. What! That thing! Sacred, I assure you. [Rising to explain] You see, she'll be a pupil; and teaching would be impossible unless pupils were sacred. I've taught scores of American millionairesses how to speak English: the best looking women in the world. I'm seasoned. They might as well be blocks of wood. I might as well be a block of wood. It's— (2.165)

  • Not only has Higgins come to view his clients as objects rather than human beings, he even seems to have lost something of his own identity in the process. There is another interesting interpretation, however: a block of wood, like a canvas, is a medium for artistic expression. He, of course, is paid to shape his clients, but this suggests that he, himself, could also be subject to the same process.
3 theme of identity dramatic reference clash within
3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Clash Within
  • Higgins admits that he sees himself as a sort of child, still in the process of growing, an impression which Shaw confirms in his initial description. At the same time, he is unwilling to acknowledge certain other highly visible aspects of his personality.

Quote #HIGGINS. You know, Pickering, that woman has the most extraordinary ideas about me. Here I am, a shy, diffident sort of man. I've never been able to feel really grown-up and tremendous, like other chaps. And yet she's firmly persuaded that I'm an arbitrary overbearing bossing kind of person. I can't account for it. (2.197)

3 theme of identity dramatic reference multidimensionality

Quote #MRS. HIGGINS. Be quiet, Henry. Colonel Pickering: don't you realize that when Eliza walked into Wimpole Street, something walked in with her?[…]PICKERING. But what?MRS. HIGGINS [unconsciously dating herself by the word] A problem. […]MRS. HIGGINS. No, you two infinitely stupid male creatures: the problem of what is to be done with her afterwards.HIGGINS. I don't see anything in that. She can go her own way, with all the advantages I have given her. (3.248-255)

3. Theme of IdentityDramatic Reference | Multidimensionality
  • Mrs. Higgins is concerned that her son and Pickering have been short-sighted, and failed to acknowledge the full extent of their task. Eliza's problems, like her personality, are multifaceted.
3 theme of identity questions
3. Theme of IdentityQuestions
  • We watch Eliza change in a number of ways throughout Pygmalion: she learns how to speak properly, she begins dressing differently, etc. But does she ever lose her old self, her old identity? Can we really say what her old identity is anyway?
3 theme of identity questions1
3. Theme of IdentityQuestions
  • On the other hand, can we ever really be sure that identity is fixed? Does Eliza's transformation call into question the way we view the self? Are there any characters who seem totally and completely comfortable with themselves and their personalities?
3 theme of identity questions2
3. Theme of IdentityQuestions
  • What are the different ways in which the characters define themselves? For instance, do they compare themselves to other groups? Do they allow their class to define them, or their jobs? Are they even conscious of their own identities?
3 theme of identity questions3
3. Theme of IdentityQuestions
  • Why the heck is Eliza so afraid that people will think she's not a "good girl"?
4 theme of appearance
4. Theme of Appearance
  • Is beauty only skin deep? Is it in the eye of the beholder? Or is it the consequence of social circumstances? Shaw's more interested in dealing with the big questions – like that last one – than with old saws.
  • In Pygmalion, anything from a pair of boots to a bath to an expensive dress can tell us important stuff about a character, like their place in the world or their state of mind.
  • They can reveal what might normally be hidden from view, or hide that which might normally be obvious. So appearances can be deceiving, and the trick is learning how to judge what is true and what is false. The thing is, it's not an easy skill to pick up.
4 theme of appearance dramatic reference physical appeal
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Physical appeal

Quote #[[Eliza] is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist]. (1.29)

  • Shaw tells us that she "is not at all an attractive person," but he contradicts himself in the next act. In this case, mere physical appearance, dirtiness, and neglect destroy any kind of physical appeal.
4 theme of appearance dramatic reference standards of appearance
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference |Standards of Appearance
  • Even before she is taught to speak and talk correctly, Eliza has some ideas about cleanliness, self-image, and respectability. She is simply unable to meet any of the usual standards.

Quote #The flower girl enters in state. She has a hat with three ostrich feathers, orange, sky-blue, and red. She has a nearly clean apron, and the shoddy coat has been tidied a little. The pathos of this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air, touches Pickering, who has already straightened himself in the presence of Mrs. Pearce. (2.21)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference behavior
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Behavior
  • Mrs. Pearce has strong views on the potential harmfulness of what might be called bad behavior. As she sees it, Higgins must look and act respectable if he expects Eliza to change for the better.

Quote #MRS. PEARCE. Yes, sir. Then might I ask you not to come down to breakfast in your dressing-gown, or at any rate not to use it as a napkin to the extent you do, sir. And if you would be so good as not to eat everything off the same plate, and to remember not to put the porridge saucepan out of your hand on the clean tablecloth, it would be a better example to the girl. You know you nearly choked yourself with a fishbone in the jam only last week. (2.188)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference deceptive attribute
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Deceptive Attribute
  • Doolittle's clothing clashes with his other attributes: his facial features, his demeanor, and his voice. He is dressed like a dustman, but Shaw tells us that he is not the kind of person we might expect.

Quote #Alfred Doolittle is an elderly but vigorous dustman, clad in the costume of his profession, including a hat with a back brim covering his neck and shoulders. He has well marked and rather interesting features, and seems equally free from fear and conscience. He has a remarkably expressive voice, the result of a habit of giving vent to his feelings without reserve. His present pose is that of wounded honor and stern resolution. (2.211)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference language vs visual
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Language vs. Visual
  • Just as with the upstarts Higgins mentions (see 1.120), all it takes is a single word to disrupt an extremely powerful illusion.

Quote #[[Doolittle] hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don't you know your own daughter? (2.289-290)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference awareness
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Awareness

Quote #There is a portrait of Mrs. Higgins as she was when she defied fashion in her youth in one of the beautiful Rossettian costumes which, when caricatured by people who did not understand, led to the absurdities of popular estheticism in the eighteen-seventies.In the corner diagonally opposite the door Mrs. Higgins, now over sixty and long past taking the trouble to dress out of the fashion, sits writing at an elegantly simple writing-table with a bell button within reach of her hand. (3.3-4)

  • Mrs. Higgins's graceful beauty and her ability to define herself against fashion suggest that she is very comfortable with herself, that she knows, deep down, who she is.
4 theme of appearance dramatic reference genteel poverty
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Genteel Poverty
  • Though Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill are both subject to the same kind of "genteel poverty," each expresses their condition in a different way, perhaps because of the difference in age.

Quote #Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill are the mother and daughter who sheltered from the rain in Covent Garden. The mother is well bred, quiet, and has the habitual anxiety of straitened means. The daughter has acquired a gay air of being very much at home in society: the bravado of genteel poverty. (3.43)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference subject to change
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Subject to Change
  • Eliza, first described as "not at all attractive," has become incredibly desirable thanks to some nice clothing, jewelry, and a few months of training. Appearance is a changeable, and powerful, thing.

Quote #Eliza, who is exquisitely dressed, produces an impression of such remarkable distinction and beauty as she enters that they all rise, quite flustered. Guided by Higgins's signals, she comes to Mrs. Higgins with studied grace. (3.91)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference conflict
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Conflict
  • The contrast between Eliza's clothing and her face, between their elegance and her sadness, recalls the disconnect between Eliza's magnificent skills and her opportunities to employ them.

Quote #Eliza opens the door and is seen on the lighted landing in opera cloak, brilliant evening dress, and diamonds, with fan, flowers, and all accessories. She comes to the hearth, and switches on the electric lights there. She is tired: her pallor contrasts strongly with her dark eyes and hair; and her expression is almost tragic. (4.1)

4 theme of appearance dramatic reference acknowledgment
4. Theme of AppearanceDramatic Reference | Acknowledgment
  • After spending so much time learning to express herself correctly with words, it seems ironic that her first "triumph" is signaled with nothing more than expressions.

Quote #Eliza smiles for the first time; expresses her feelings by a wild pantomime in which an imitation of Higgins's exit is confused with her own triumph; and finally goes down on her knees on the hearthrug to look for the ring. (4.93)

4 theme of appearance questions
4. Theme of AppearanceQuestions
  • At the end of Act 4, Eliza tells Higgins that she doesn't want the clothing and jewelry that was given to her. Why does this anger Higgins so much?
4 theme of appearance questions1
4. Theme of AppearanceQuestions
  • Higgins tells Pickering that he can "pass off" Eliza as a duchess in six months. What does this phrase really mean? What does it say about his intentions?
4 theme of appearance questions2
4. Theme of AppearanceQuestions
  • Shaw uses clothing to tell us about characters throughout the play. Eliza manages to trick people by wearing more expensive, fashionable clothes. What does this tell us about the power of appearance?
4 theme of appearance questions3
4. Theme of AppearanceQuestions
  • Could Pygmalion still work as a play if Eliza were not attractive?
5 theme of manipulation
5. Theme of Manipulation
  • In Pygmalion, we see different types of influence and control, sometimes literal and other times metaphorical: the teacher training his student, the artist shaping his creation, the con artist fleecing his mark, the child playing with his toy.
  • That said, these roles aren't always well-defined; they can change easily, without warning. Sometimes the master becomes the slave and the slave the master, in the blink of the eye, while other times the two simply become equals.
  • Shaw wants us to observe the consequences of control, to see how these changes occur.
5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference uncompassionate
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Uncompassionate
  • Higgins's motives for helping Eliza do not seem to spring from compassion, but the skills he agrees to teach her are certainly intended to help her prosper.

Quote #1PICKERING. Higgins: I'm interested. What about the ambassador's garden party? I'll say you're the greatest teacher alive if you make that good. I'll bet you all the expenses of the experiment you can't do it. And I'll pay for the lessons.LIZA. Oh, you are real good. Thank you, Captain.HIGGINS [tempted, looking at her] It's almost irresistible. She's so deliciously low—so horribly dirty—LIZA [protesting extremely] Ah—ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oooo!!! I ain't dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did. (2.76-9)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference excitement
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Excitement
  • Higgins is so quickly wrapped up (pun not intended) in his project, that he immediately starts to treat her as an object, raw material for his designs.

Quote #2HIGGINS [storming on] Take all her clothes off and burn them. Ring up Whiteley or somebody for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they come. (2.86)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference fear
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Fear
  • Higgins takes a strange pleasure in tempting Eliza, as if he is scared she will run away. It seems as though he may be attached to her long before he pleads for her to stay at Wimpole Street.

Quote #3HIGGINS. Listen, Eliza. I think you said you came in a taxi.LIZA. Well, what if I did? I've as good a right to take a taxi as anyone else.HIGGINS. You have, Eliza; and in future you shall have as many taxis as you want. You shall go up and down and round the town in a taxi every day. Think of that, Eliza. (2.140-142)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference control
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference| Control
  • On the other hand, Mrs. Pearce suggests that, under certain circumstances, Higgins's manipulation is inadvertent, and that he is even capable of losing control, of manipulating himself.

Quote #4MRS. PEARCE [patiently] I think you'd better let me speak to the girl properly in private. I don't know that I can take charge of her or consent to the arrangement at all. Of course I know you don't mean her any harm; but when you get what you call interested in people's accents, you never think or care what may happen to them or you. Come with me, Eliza. (2.152)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference power of rhetoric
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference| Power of Rhetoric
  • Higgins, himself an expert in language, acknowledges the (sometimes dangerous) power of language and rhetoric.

Quote #5HIGGINS. [After listening to Doolittle] Pickering: if we listen to this man another minute, we shall have no convictions left. (2.284)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference ambitiousness
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Ambitiousness
  • Mrs. Higgins, like Mrs. Pearce, seems to agree that Higgins can get carried where his "art" is concerned. He seems unable to acknowledge how artificial Eliza's behavior is.

Quote #MRS. HIGGINS. You silly boy, of course she's not presentable. She's a triumph of your art and of her dressmaker's; but if you suppose for a moment that she doesn't give herself away in every sentence she utters, you must be perfectly cracked about her. (3.203)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference entertainment
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Entertainment
  • Often, Higgins and Pickering do not seem to treat her like a human being. Her remarkable abilities are simply a source of entertainment for them.

Quote #7HIGGINS [to Pickering as they go out together] Let's take her to the Shakespear exhibition at Earls Court.PICKERING. Yes: let's. Her remarks will be delicious.HIGGINS. She'll mimic all the people for us when we get home. (3.262-264)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference behavior
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Behavior
  • Trick, indeed. Higgins and Pickering talk about Eliza as if she were a pet, a performing animal.

Quote #8PICKERING [stretching himself] Well, I feel a bit tired. It's been a long day. The garden party, a dinner party, and the opera! Rather too much of a good thing. But you've won your bet, Higgins. Eliza did the trick, and something to spare, eh? (5.8)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference reversibility
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Reversibility
  • Eliza is not, of course, literally enslaved. And Higgins has no intention of chaining her up. Her training, however, makes her unable to go back to her old ways. She is no longer being manipulated actively; rather, the effects of the manipulation are unshakeable.

Quote #LIZA. Oh! if I only COULD go back to my flower basket! I should be independent of both you and father and all the world! Why did you take my independence from me? Why did I give it up? I'm a slave now, for all my fine clothes. (5.231)

5 theme of manipulation dramatic reference transformation
5. Theme of ManipulationDramatic Reference | Transformation
  • By the end, Eliza seems to have learned a thing or two about manipulation and control from her teacher. Still, when she turns the tables, he tries to turn them right back.

Quote #LIZA. Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can't take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you. And I can be civil and kind to people, which is more than you can. Aha! That's done you, Henry Higgins, it has. Now I don't care that [snapping her fingers] for your bullying and your big talk. I'll advertize it in the papers that your duchess is only a flower girl that you taught, and that she'll teach anybody to be a duchess just the same in six months for a thousand guineas. Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself. (5.262)

questions about manipulation
Questions About Manipulation
  • Toward the end of the play, Eliza tells Higgins that she has become a slave. Is she right? Does that make her a slave?
questions about manipulation1
Questions About Manipulation
  • Throughout Pygmalion, Eliza is repeatedly objectified, compared to everything from a pebble to a piece of trash. Is there any reason why Shaw compares her to the things he does? Is there a better way to describe the way she is treated?
questions about manipulation2
Questions About Manipulation
  • The mythical Pygmalion was a sculptor who fashioned his ideal woman out of stone. Shaw is clearly making a comparison between Pygmalion and Higgins, but does that comparison really hold up?
questions about manipulation3
Questions About Manipulation
  • Higgins is most certainly the "manipulator-in-chief" in Pygmalion, but what about the other characters? Do any of them exert their own influence on Eliza? Does she do anything manipulating herself?
review lecture 23
Review Lecture 23
  • Themes of Pygmalion (Conti…)
  • 3. Theme of Identity
  • 4. Theme of Appearance
  • 5. Theme of Manipulation