Tag Archives: Pygmalion

Class and Identity

15 Apr

Our sense of class and identity has developed notably in the past 100 years. Two factors which caused this change are the change in demographics in Europe, and the general discontent of the lower class. Such a scene can be experienced in Azerbaijan because although social class distinctions exist they are certainly loosening.

In every society class distinctions exist, and an extremely large percent of society belongs in the lower class. This is why if there is discontent among the lower class, then such distinctions can be perished. The reason why in the past 100 years there have been a general development in identity is because of revolutions and violence caused mostly by the lower class. Class distinctions also have significantly loosened especially in the west however it still exists. For example as one can observe the social structure in Pygmalion has become awfully loose and even members of the middle class do not respect the boundaries set by it.

Secondly the changing demographics in Europe and around the world led to an increased amount of income. Certain members of the lower class became rich as high class members, but they did not speak, dress, or behave in the way which the higher class behaved. It is obvious that Eliza Doolittle is poor but she is willing to apply for a job and at least become upper lower class or “genteel poor”. In addition Mr. Doolittle Eliza’s father also becomes rich by accident, although he cannot speak or behave like the middle or higher class members. He has the financial status but lacks the other properties. This led to the loosening of class structure and as people realised that the only difference between classes were speech, clothes, and behaviour class distinctions loosened further. Changing demographics also lead to unfair income distribution as well as loosening class distinctions. An example from Pygmalion is how Mr. Higgins can afford to give Mr. Doolittle £5 while on the other hand Mr. Doolittle considers this a large enough amount to sacrifice his morals and sell his daughter.

Azerbaijan is a relatively young state and it was created in 1991, and because of the Soviet occupation for more than 70 consecutive years Azerbaijan was influenced to stray from class distinctions. As Azerbaijan advanced into the late 1990’s class distinctions became more obvious and rigid. In Pygmalion the same situation is experienced because at the time class distinctions were loosening. A strong connection which one can make with Pygamlion is the language distinction. In Azerbaijan the relatively conservative higher class population prefers to maintain the Azerbaijani language while some members mostly nouveau riche prefer to speak Russian.

The Mobility of Social Class

14 Apr

George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion comprises various topics and themes. The most dominant and obvious, however, is concerned with social class, particularly class distinctions. Through his use of different characters, Shaw clearly presents the distinction between different classes. Throughout the play, he represents the different factors that drive the wedge between classes, which include language, appearances, decorum, education and wealth. The satire mainly lies in the factor of language, as the play is centered on the fact (or theme) that simply changing one’s way of speaking or accent enables class mobility. Higgins, the professor of phonetics (and one of the protagonists of the play) believes wagers that he can turn Eliza Doolittle, a common flower girl, into a lady within six months, merely by working on her speech.

“You have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and changer her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It’s filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul,” says Higgins to his mother (3. 223-224).

Thus, one can sense the folly Shaw is presenting with class distinctions, and that they can be based on the most superficial, negligible things. This is especially reinforced by Higgins’s lighthearted, experimental attitude towards this project, which he treats as a “bet”. Shaw even goes further to reveal that intra-class distinctions are just as existent as inter-class distinctions. This can be represented by the Enysford Hills, who he represents as the “genteel” poor. They may have the social etiquette and appearances of the middle class, but in terms of wealth, they are more like Eliza. Hence, they represent the “lower middle class”.

Today, such class distinctions still exist. In the United States, there are so many different opinions of the social strata that are present. Some believe in the “three-class theory”, which includes the rich, middle class and the poor. Others believe that many more social strata exist, particularly within classes. Nonetheless, unlike Shaw’s play, class mobility in the States, and probably most other countries, is not as easy or enabled by something as simple as changing your manner of speaking. In other words, society is not as easily “fooled” by shallow things such as appearances and speech as Shaw’s society is by Eliza. In the U.S., class distinctions are more fixed, based more on income, the family you are born into and education. When a people are born into lower class families, they are often stuck in those conditions, as they are more limited in wealth, and therefore, education. Of course, there are countless stories of people born into poor families who become successful and manage to get quality education, but one cannot simply ignore their background and the family in which they have been raised. The reality is that it requires much more work and yearning to transform to a higher class, at least, more than the few months that it took Eliza to develop her speech.


The Class Structure in the Victorian Era

9 Mar

The Victorian era was during the period of the rule of Queen Victoria. During that period many things flourished such as the school and political or religious movements. During that time Britain consists of four classes: the Church, the aristocracy, the middle class and the working class. The top class such as the aristocracy class possessed the greatest power and wealth. Most of the people in this class structure were noble men and owned most of the land. The royal family was also part of this class structure. The people in the middle class were not much privileged. Some of the people in this class structure were rich. This type of class comprises of factory owners, bankers, shopkeepers, merchants, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, traders, and other professionals. The lower class had two sections which were: the working class which consisted of labors and the poor people. The lower class consisted of women and children performing different types of labor such as working in a factory, sewing, chimney sweeping, mining and other jobs. The aristocratic class didn’t have to pay the taxes during that time. On the other hand, the middle class and the poorer class had the most burden of tax. Industrialization completely changed the class structure especially the middle class which is the working class. As a result of the industrialization, it created a huge division between the upper class and the lower class. The classes were distinct because the upper class had a higher income and much greater status and they had higher esteem. On the other hand, the lower class didn’t possess any of those things because they were in poverty.

The Pygmalion Myth

9 Mar

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a king of the island of Cyprus and a sculptor. He spent many years carving an ivory statue of a woman more beautiful than any living female.
Pygmalion became fascinated by his sculpture and fell in love with it. He pretended it was an actual woman. He brought it presents and treated it as if it were alive. However, the statue could not respond to his attentions, and Pygmalion became miserable. Finally, he prayed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to bring him a woman like his statue. Aphrodite did even better. She brought the statue to life. Pygmalion married this woman, often called Galatea, who gave birth to a daughter (some versions of the story say the child was a boy).

Speech Therapy

8 Mar

               Speech therapy is treatment for pronunciation and language disorders. One can be diagnosed with such a disorder due to an inability of producing certain sounds or inability of constructing sentences of one’s own.  Demand for speech therapy rose sharply in the turn of the century, more specifically 1890 to 1920. This rise was mainly due to four reasons.

                Primarily, what led to a desire for speech therapy was the increased awareness of what communication is, and what problems miscommunication caused. The general populations in Europe were starting to realize that speech was one of the most important factors in their life. After seeing the atrocities of WWI presumably all Europeans had felt the grave problems miscommunication caused. Secondly, changing population demographics in Europe, especially the most industrialized countries such as Britain or France communication became extremely important. Thirdly technological and social advances who almost everyone wanted to know about. Education was developing and to develop with trends and breakthroughs the general population of Europe had to perfect their communication abilities. Another relatively small factor is that many soldiers fighting in WWI had speech disabilities due to the use of poison gas during the war. Soldiers who wanted to recover their pre-war speech abilities appealed to Speech and Language Pathologists. Finally, the mere expansion of speech therapy services led to a desire to perfect speech. Now Speech Language Pathologists did not only give lectures in universities but instead chose to establish clinics aiding those suffering from speech disabilities.