Importance of speech in Pygmalion


Importanceof speech in Pygmalion


Importanceof speech in Pygmalion

Pygmalion is a comedy written in1913 by George Bernard Shaw. The play focuses on class and economicstructures, shifting gender roles, and England’s global influenceand power. Among the mentioned themes, the most important would be‘class and economic structures,’ which is primarily shown throughthe characters’ speech. In Pygmalion, speech can be defined asone’s identity. Through speech, the characters’ backgrounds andsocial classes become evident, and their identity is determined. Theplay uses phonetics to explore class boundaries and their potentialmalleability. Pygmalion connects economic status to grammar anddialect, which suggests that class position is culturally linked tospeech (Shaw, 2003).

“Nah then, Freddy: look wh’y’ gowin, deah,” (44). The audience encounters the heroine ElizaDoolittle with a Cockney speech, filthy clothes, and an unpleasantsituation of having to pick up flowers on a rainy night. Eliza’sspeech at the beginning of Act I consists of lower class languagefilled with slangs and one contrasting to Mrs. Hill, a wealthy womanfrom the upper class, “You can keep the change… Now tel me howyou know that young gentleman’s name,” (50, 53) (Shaw, 2003). Theclear contrast between the two speeches pronounces the difference inclass status of the two characters. While Eliza the flower girl’sspeech is practically incomprehensible, Mrs. Hill’s speech isarticulate and flawless. It can be said that the two characters’identities are determined by their ways of speaking, immediatelyrepresenting the difference in class and economic structures.

The significance of speech isalso visible when Pickering and Higgins’ talk to Eliza in asignificantly different manners. Pickering refers to Eliza as ‘MissDoolittle’ and shows her gentleman behavior while Higgins’insults and mocks her, even threatens that he will use violenceagainst her with a broomstick. In this, simply because of beingreferred to as Miss Doolittle her enthusiasm is spurred up. Thecoarseness of Higgins`s voice shows potential violence in hislanguage. Eliza is hurt by Higgins words while she excited byPickering gentleman hood. This clearly demonstrates the power ofspeech towards a person’s feelings.

In addition, the play triessignificantly to connect speech to an individual’s personality. Asin the play, this is one of the major interests. As it begins, we seeHiggins being able to guess easily where people are from simplybecause of their dialect, accent, and particular slang. The waydifferent people speak the same language, therefore, shows a greatdeal about their identity. However, Shaw challenges and exposes thisfactor as not entirely accurate. He shows how shallow theconceptualization of identity is. It is imprecise since it does notrepresent or capture the whole person. In this Eliza speechtransformation happens throughout the play. She changes her identitysimply by learning how to talk differently.

Pygmalion repeatedly displays theassociation of speech and social class. An apparent difference ofspeech can be seen by people of different social class speak vastlydifferent dialects. This is evident especially in the opening scene,when Eliza calls her son Freddy it puzzles Mrs. Eysnford Hill sinceshe does not realize that it was a lower-class kind of slang. Elizais also able to fool people that she is from an upper-classbackground simply by changing her speech habits. Higgins shames Elizabecause of speaking a deprived version of dialectal of the greatwriters Milton and Shakespeare (Shaw, 2003). This is because theupper-class characters place an entitlement to correct or properEnglish in the play. However, one particular version of Englishcannot be said to be inherently right. As this is demonstrated inMrs. Higgins` home, where Mrs. Eynsford misguidedly believes thatthere is a new, fashionable form of small talk in Eliza’s slang.Therefore, there is nothing improper or wrong about Eliza’soriginal speech habit. As it, however, enables Eliza, Picking andHiggins to use this in fooling the higher class and thus passingEliza as a noble lady.

In conclusion, speech is used toexpress many ideas of Shaw. In this for understanding social classesand person’s identity speech is a great and import factor toconsider and examine. As outlined, here Shaw gives us a new dimensionin which to view society. In addition as in this play, it isparamount to understand speech habits of people to acknowledge fullyand appreciate them (Shaw, 2003).


Shaw,B. (2003). Pygmalion: Aromance in five acts.London: Penguin Books.