Wednesday 29 September 2021

Pygmalion is a play of conflict between women and the man of Generosity | English literature notes

 Pygmalion is a play of conflict between women and the man of Generosity.


Examine Eliza/Higgins's relationship in this light.


Discuss the Battle of Wills as depicted in the play.

Pygmalion is a play of conflict between women and the man of Generosity.
Pygmalion Notes

Answer: The influence of Lifeforce upon a woman’s life is twofold. Its main purpose is to multiply and in this regard a woman pursuits the man of her choice and casts her charm and sexual appeal in all possible ways to ensure him. The Men’s potentiality of becoming the best father of his children mostly determines his choice. This is the general theory of how the life force works. But, such is not in some cases. In these cases, the man who is talented and generous does not yield to the allurement of a woman. Here, the purpose of life force assumes a different meaning. Lifeforce, in these cases instead of multiplying life, exerts its energy to elevate life.

Upon a generous man, lifeforce works with its usual intensity. In an ordinary case, a woman sacrifices her man to live up to her purpose, similarly, a generous man sacrifices a woman to attain his higher aspiration. This makes him an enigma to other people. He does not seem successful in a practical world lacking the conventional making of a good husband. He devotes his energy to achieve his goal, not settling down as a family man. This gives birth to the conflict between him and the woman. However, generally, a generous man commits his life to realize his views of beauty and make others too realize it. These men of generosity are mostly indifferent to the charm of the opposite sex. They excel in their profession as men of letters, artists, and inventors. Their talents are too vast to simply remain constricted in eulogizing women. In Pygmalion too this conflict becomes a major theme that originates from Eliza Higgins's relationship.

In Pygmalion shaw delineates the character of Higgins as an Eminent phonetician whose expertise is above any doubts despite his eccentricities. He is boorish by nature, while sketching his character Shaw has in his mind the character of a reputed phonetician in real life, Henry sweet. However, Higgins is intellectual, confident, and successful in his life and also a popular figure in the elite class as revealed from Mrs. Higgins comment:

“Henry, you are the life and soul of the Royal societies Soirees”. His confidence makes him accept the challenge of passing off Eliza, as a Dutchess. But as he is generous, does not contemplate Eliza as his future wife. His talent only focuses only in transforming Eliza and once he is successful in his mission, he loses his interest in Eliza.

Eliza develops into a superior human being after Higgins's experiment to complete. She transforms externally as well as internally her well acquaintance with Higgins makes her sense his indifference to feminine charm and her natural instinct wants her of Higgin’s incapability of becoming a good husband and good father so, she revolts against Higgins compelling personality and insensitiveness, steps out of his house and marries Freddy who is young whom she finds has the better potentiality of becoming a good husband and a good father. Nevertheless, Higgins wants her to stay with them. As a scholar he is independent but somehow he acquaintance with Eliza makes him dependent upon her on the domestic front. Her assistance helps him to commit himself entirely to his profession as a phonetician but Eliza does not dream to led a life like that, not even she is ready to bear passively the bully of Figgins, her defiance basically engenders from the clash of wills.

Pygmalion is a story of human creation. In the play, Eliza evolves as a new woman. The famous critic NFO Donell opines that apart from social criticism and didacticism in the humorous note as reflected in the play, conflict of will is the major theme that signifies human relations, such human relations based upon a conflict of wills hint at Shaw’s conception of human nature and human relationship. When Eliza transforms her personality also undergoes changes. She had off his inhibition, she is now confident to take on ambitious Higgins on an equal platform that gives rise to a conflict of wills.

Alfred Dolittle, the father of Eliza is a victim of Psychological conflict. Social discrimination has labeled the man as an undeserving poor. Deprived of higher living conditions, he chooses to live on his own terms.

In his Sphere, middle-class morality has no access which to him is another name of hypocrisy. But his course of life changes suddenly when he accidentally acquires an amazing amount of well. He no more belongs to his previous class and does not find himself comfortable with the newly acquires class. He is now bound by middle-class morality that he used to earlier. In his new identity, his free will remains suppressed by intimidating moral convictions. This intimidating influence of the higher class is also experienced by Eliza when she comes to Higgins for the first time. Higgins's compelling personality and furious temper make him awesome to Eliza. Even her success at the Ambassador Garden party does not ensure her complete transformation even then she desires Higgins's love in exchange for her servility.

Eliza’s transformation completes and once when she comes out successfully from Higgins intermediating influence. She asserts her will and betrays her independent soul in his discourse with Higgins in Act 5. She shows an indomitable spirit to survive on her own. His sense of self-esteem also arises in Higgins's respect for her and in exultation he calls her consort battleship a significant change from a squashed cabbage leaf. The metaphor consent battleship symbolizes the conflict of wills where both the wills are equally strong and superior. She is no more an object of serving a personal purpose, no more to suffer from humiliation at anyone when she is daring and not to be frightened, not to become an object at the experiment.

Ultimately, Eliza emerges as an independent woman who successfully has her way, marries Freddy, and settles down in her life. The battle of wills between a woman represented by Eliza and a genius represented by Higgins concludes the outcome establishes Shaw's philosophy of lifeforce depicting a woman as a triumphant homemaker and genius.

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