Keeping all this in mind, I came to formulate the research question “How and to what effect does the use of language empower Higgins and transform Eliza?” Shaw felt that the only way to improve ones position in society was by improving their language.
He was determined to raise the social consciousness of his audience while emphasizing the use of language.
Shaw portrays this through Higgins and Eliza in Pygmalion who are at the opposite ends of society.
This essay is a development of Shaw’s frame of thought.
This essay is divided into two sections where each will be analyzing an area of inequality that set back England’s progression in Shaw’s view.
In the Preface, Shaw enthusiastically applauds the new scientific approach to language by phoneticians, “if only because it raised pronunciation above the intense self-consciousness and class snobbery which had always bedeviled the subject in England” Bernard Shaw, signifies that it is language alone that makes the difference between a flower girl and a duchess, therefore endowing “this action line with a fine satiric thrust at the basic artificiality of social ranking” At the very beginning of the play, Shaw presents us with a stratified society in which linguistic competence is one of the indicators of social status. Eynsford Hill asks Eliza how she knew her son Freddy, Eliza responds: “Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e?
Wal, fewd dan y’ de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn than ran awy athaht pyin. ” Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be discarded as unintelligible outside London.While reading Pygmalion, I was fascinated by the intricate details of language and how it affected the identity of Eliza.Realizing that language and identity were somehow connected in Pygmalion, I dove deeper into this issue and researched the effect of language on the social identities of Eliza and Henry Higgins.Shaw ridicules these aspects of the society he lived in.He felt it necessary to highlight these three aspects and awaken the social consciousness of his audiences.Shaw’s parenthetical comment on Eliza’s speech stresses his distaste for the cockney accent.The importance of language is further brought into view when Eliza comes across Professor Higgins in the street, a proud phonetician, who can distinguish everybody’s origin from his/her accent.Social judgment based on linguistics is evident in the way Eliza speaks and immediately Higgins places her in a lower social position than his and considers her as an inferior.Thus we see how Shaw critiques social discourse, nature of inequality in itself and the superficial issues of his time.Shaw critiques how language acts as a determinant of not only social status but also social acceptability.It’s ironic how this division of social inequality is mirrored by Henry Higgins who in transforming Eliza is given great social significance.