In an everchanging society of humans, stage-plays and the such, as an artform, have attempted to makes viewers question about the way how our society is ran through specific situations in the stories. For example, Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, has probed the question of what is fairness in an unfair society, through the story of Shylock. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, on the other hand, had asked readers about the division in society. Some important themes are: Language as a barrier of classes and the vast difference between the society back then compares to nowadays.
Shaw’s play has shown us the ugly importance of language in his work, Pygmalion: that the extent to which how a person sounds and how smart they sounds dictate their social class, yet it does not equate to their level of intelligence. Take Higgins for example, he is a well-spoken expert of British accents, which had allowed him to be at a well spot in the hierarchy of British’s society. On the other hand, Eliza, a more rash sounding flower girl, was thought by Higgins, to be stupid, immature because of her accent that is hard to hear. However, Eliza is not even a bit silly, but very aware of her own self-worth, as she has clearly said that she is a good person with the right morals when being ridiculed by Higgins for consulting with him about her lessons with him. Such evidences has shown how one’s own knowledge and awareness need not to be shown through how they speak, but rather in what they actually understand.
On the same matter of language, it is very noticeable how the society back then differs from the one such as today: it was a sadder one (but not exactly a dystopia, per se) in terms of economy. This is prevalent in the tea-talk that Mrs.Higgins had with the Eynsfords: that despite having a good amount of money, they are not the upper-class folks. While it is sad, it is the reality in which they had to live in.
All in all, Pygmalion was an excellent play that tackles a lot about the division in of society and how the environment corresponds with it.
2 thoughts on “Pygmalion Personal Response_Zack”
Hey Zack, great job on your response! I enjoyed reading your response and have similar thoughts. As someone whose mother tongue is not English, I definitely agree that having an accent and language plays a significant role in how people treat you in society and how it relates to their intelligence. It is sad to know that the society we live in has such prejudice.
Hi Hugo, thanks a lot for your feedback! I believe judging people from their accents is often a psychological trap we fall into, in fact it occurred to me many times as I have found myself internally forming judgements about the way someone speaks.
This is something about familiarity that we deal with: we are so used to hearing a standard way of speaking a language that having an accent to it more often than not sound rather strange, this is referred to as “accentism”. (if you did not know already) I think this can be explained with a theory I learned in the cognitive approach of psychology, which is the schema theory. It states that humans form what is called “schemas” from past experience, which can help us navigate how we go about daily life. Note that schemas are only a mental representation, so if you want to know how to operate or do something, you need to form a “script”. Think about using a smartphone, you will be able to tell if something is a smartphone because you have seen it before (this is a schema) and you will be able to use it with no problem because again, you have used it before. (a script).
So the thing about judging according to accent is that unfamiliarity is definitely scary, which means what you have known versus what you are experiencing is “off-script” (this is a loose term I used, I am not sure if it is 100% accurate).
Regardless, judgements is an integral part we face in our daily life and when it comes to these kind of issues, it is more important that we address how we can overcome it rather than thinking it is a fixed rule. As Mr.MacKnight has said: literature raises questions, not sending messages. Well same thing here: if there is an answer, there is question, vice versa. So let’s untangled this issue: to what extent does one’s ability to speak and one’s accent constitute to one’s own education and knowledge?
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