Books Based off of other Books, Books set in Europe, Fiction, Shaw-George Bernard, Social Commentary

#524 Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Pygmalion by George Bernard ShawPygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Making a creation is great and all, but what happens when that creation becomes more than just a creation? What happens when your creation becomes sentient and develops feelings?

I’m not talking about sentient robots who take over the Earth, I’m actually speaking about Eliza Doolittle. You probably know this story better as My Fair Lady. All you classy people know this story as a movie called My Fair Lady staring Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, but it was generally meant to be a play.

This story is based on of a bit of Greek Mythology. I explain it to you, I promise, if I remembered the entire story. The premise of it is that Pygmalion created Galatea and Galatea became real to an extent instead of just being a creation. I can’t get any more detailed than that right now, otherwise I would do you and the story an injustice.

This whole story starts out in the market. There’s a flower girl there trying to sell flowers. She’s rather crude in her speech and dress. There comes to be an uproar when some change is made and some better-off people show up. One man takes notes like a weirdo, but he can guess where everyone is from. Another man just wants to be kind to the flower girl. It ends up that the two men sort of know each other. One man is Henry Higgins and the other is the Colonel. They make a bet. They bet that Eliza, the flower girl, can be cleaned up and presentable in six months.

Eliza ends up living with Henry Higgins and the Colonel, who moved in with Henry. Eliza surpasses all of their expectations. She becomes the perfect example of a lady. Her speech is impeccable. No one recognizes that she’s not high-born.

Henry merely saw Eliza as his creation, but it turns out that she has feelings as well. She wants approval from both of the men and she wants to be recognized for herself. In the end Henry is still Henry and Eliza finds herself a little better off in life.

What I liked

It’s been so long since I’ve seen My Fair Lady that I’ve forgotten much of the story, but what I haven’t forgotten was in the book, word for word, because it’s actually a play. I generally don’t read plays, but this one was alright.

There’s a phrase in the book that I really liked. I highlighted it.

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

Eliza has the same potential as any other woman, but it took two men on a bet to put some faith in her for her to have faith in herself. Sometimes we see ourselves as nothing, until someone comes along and thinks we’re great. Then we look at ourselves again and realize that maybe we’re not so bad. If you treat a person like a dog, they’re eventually going to think they’re like a dog. If you treat a person well, they’re eventually going to realize that they have worth.

Eliza is this perfect story of how a little faith from someone else can change a person’s entire outlook. Don’t ever second-guess telling a person they’re good at something, or they look nice, or they’re a good person. You never know what impact that compliment may have on them. It could completely change the way they think about themselves.

It also goes to show you that sometimes you just need one other person in the world to believe in you and that makes all the difference.

What I didn’t like

Honestly, I’m kind of disappointed this isn’t the love story we would think it would be. In the movie, we know that Henry Higgins ends up thinking that Eliza is pretty great, but in the original story they don’t end up together. Eliza doesn’t even really like Henry in that manner. She knows that he is who he is and he’s not going to change.

Blast it, Henry, be the man everyone wants you to be! You’re ruining our love story.

If you read the little section before the book even starts, there is this bit about the English language and how it should be spoken properly and with a certain accent. You’re barking up the wrong tree George. English, while not as widespread as say Spanish or Chinese, is a widely spoken language and people speak it however in the heck they want to. How an Australian speaks English is different than how an English person speaks English. How someone from New York Speaks English is different from how someone from Alabama speaks English, and that’s within the same country. English is a language that has been adapted and appended in so many ways. Essentially, there really isn’t a correct way to speak it. We have added so much of other languages into our language and spread it so far, that you pretty much just have to accept what a person thinks as English is English.

Look, this is all pretentious. As much as I hate to admit it, there really isn’t a correct way to speak English. Anyone who claims you’re only supposed to pronounce a word in one manner with one accent is a stuck-up jerk. You say To-mah-toe…. I say gross.


Just you wait Henry Higgins…just you wait.

Weigh In

What life do you imagine for Eliza had she not been plucked out of the streets for a bet?

In your opinion, does everyone have the same inborn potential as everyone else?


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