George Bernard Show and "Pygmalion"

One of the greatest realistic writers in world literature was George Bernard Shaw A great publicist and dramatist, he was always in the midst of political life in Britain. He took an active part in solving human problems, and he was deeply moved by questions of war and peace.
Bernard Shaw was born in 1856 in Dunlin, the capital of Ireland .As a boy he seldom saw his parents His father was occupied in a business which was almost bankrupt, and his mother devoted all her time to musical interests.
Bernard Shaw had a well-educated uncle, a clergyman with whom he read the classics So when he entered school at the age often, he was much advanced and did better than all other pupils in English composition But the school course of studies was so dull for him that he soon got tired of it and took refuge in idleness His parents made him change schools, but everywhere the old-fashioned dull books were the same, and they did not arouse the boy's interest. He educated himself by reading and by studying foreign language. His mother, who had a very good voice, taught her son singing. At the age of fifteen Shaw went to work as a clerk. He came in contact with the common people and saw all the stages of poverty into which the Irish peasants had fallen. Shaw took a great interest in social movements and politics. He called himself an Irish proletarian. When the first socialist organizations appeared, he joined the Socialists.
In 1876 Bernard Shaw moved to London, where his mother had been making a living by giving music lessons. While in Dublin, Shaw had wanted to go in for art and study music, but in London he gave up this idea and decided to try his hand at writing. He realized that the object of literature was to form people's minds, to solve human problems, to lead people in social struggles.
When the Fabian Society was being organized, Shaw took an active part in it. He wrote the manifesto for the Society and many pamphlets and articles on Socialism.
Along with political articles Shaw also wrote novels. By the end of the century he had written five novels.
In 1885 Shaw was invited to review books, new plays and exhibitions for the "Pall Mall Gazette". His knowledge of music made him an independent critic of the opera as well. His artistic taste was excellent.
Early in the nineties Bernard Shaw staged his first play "Widowers' Houses", which dealt with the slums of London. The play had the effect of a sharp political pamphlet. After that other plays followed.
When the Boer War broke out, Shaw like many other Fabians, did not protest against it. But when World War I broke out, Shaw wrote a strongly-worded pamphlet against militarism- "Common Sense About the War".
Bernard Shaw sympathized with Russia at the time of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. Early in the twenties Bernard Shaw wrote many political pamphlets and became more interested in world affairs and in the question of peace than in England's home affairs. All his articles showed him to be a friend of the Soviet Union. He visited our country in 1931 and enjoyed a hearty welcome. His 75th birthday was celebrated in Moscow Bernard Shaw died at his country home in Hertfordshire, on November 2, 1950, at the age of ninety-four.
The creative work of Bernard Shaw is divided into two periods. The first period begins in 1879 and lasts till World War I. His literary work of the period comprises five novels and a number of pamphlets, critical articles on art, and plays.
The most important plays are:
- Plays Unpleasant (3 plays): Widower's Houses, The Philanderer, Mrs. Warren's Profession
- Plays Pleasant (4 plays)
- Three Plays for Puritans
- Man and Superman
- John Bull's Other Island
- Major Barbara
All together 22 plays were written between 1879 and 1918.
The works of the first period expose the vices of capitalist society. They also reveal human psychology as a product of this society. There are no heroes in the plays. The principal character is society itself. When dealing with the social problems, Shaw exposes the social institutions, such as the Government, the Church and marriage. He makes a point of the fact that often there is no democracy behind the Government, no religious feeling for the Church, and no love behind marriage.
The second period of Shaw's creative work began with the end of the war and with the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, and ended in the middle of the 20th century.
In the works of this period Bernard Shaw goes deeper into politics. Mere criticism of capitalist society is replaced by an attempt to find a way out of social conflicts.
The twenty plays representing the second period include:
- Pygmalion
- Heartbreak House
- Saint Joan
- The Apple Cart
- Too True to Be Good
- On the Rocks

"Pygmalion" is one of Shaw's best comedies. The title of the play comes from a Greek myth.
Pygmalion, a sculptor, was said to have carved a statue out of ivory. It was the statue of a beautiful young girl whom he called Galatea. He fell in love with his own handiwork, so the goddess Aphrodite breathed life into the statue and transformed it into a woman.
The principal characters of the play are Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins. Eliza, a girl of eighteen, comes from the lowest social level and speaks with a strong Cockney accent, which is considered to be the most uncultured English possible.
Eliza's father is a dustman. Eliza will not stay with her father and stepmother She makes her own living by selling flowers in the streets of London.
The play shows us how Eliza struggles to rise to a higher cultural level.
Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics. He studies the sounds of the language. When in the street one day, he points out the flower-girl, Eliza, to his friend Colonel Pickering, who is a phonetician studying Indian dialects.
He says that her English will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. He is sure that in three months he would be able to pass that girl off as a duchess at the ambassador's garden party. Or he could even get her a place as lady's maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. Eliza hears this conversation and is impressed. She sees a chance of being pulled out of the gutter. The next day she goes straight to the professor's house and insists on being taught. She offers all the money she has Higgins is touched. He makes an agreement with Pickering. He bets Pickering that he will pass her off as a duchess in six months.
Some time later Higgins takes Eliza to one of his mother's at-homes to meet some of her friends. The professor wants to see how Eliza will manage to behave and speak in society. She can as yet speak only on two topics: the weather and health. Some visitors arrive and they begin to talk. Mrs. Higgins asks some questions about the weather, which Eliza answers beautifully, but as soon as she gets interested in the conversation, she forgets her role and falls into her habitual accent.
Higgins continues to work hard at the girl's manners and pronunciation. Finally, before six months are over, she is well prepared to be introduced into society. Higgins and Pickering take her to a garden party, a dinner-party, and the opera. Everything goes well. Higgins wins his bet. But what is to become of Eliza now when the game is over?
She cannot go back to selling flowers in the street. She has acquired some culture, and she wants to do some useful work. She wants independence and her share of human kindness. She bursts into tears.
Higgins understands the way she fells, but he cannot arrange an independent career for her He even feels guilty about the work he has done and says that the girl is like a millstone on his neck. At the same time he doesn't want to part with her. Higgins and Eliza remain friends, but the play is without an ending.
If Higgins had married Eliza, the play would have become an ordinary bourgeois fairy-tale story: a rich man picks up a girl from the gutter and, having dressed her up, marries her. This would have been too common Higgins is old enough to be Eliza's father. He loves her only as his pupil. But he loves his profession as an artist. He has created a new Eliza: she is the work of a Pygmalion.

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