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Themes

In Pygmalion, we observe a society divided, separated by language, education, and wealth. Shaw gives us a chance to see how that gap can be bridged, both successfully and unsuccessfully. As he portrays it, London society cannot simply be defined by two terms, "rich" and "poor." Within each group there are smaller less obvious distinctions, and it is in the middle, in that gray area between wealth and poverty that many of the most difficult questions arise and from which the most surprising truths emerge.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. Shaw was a lifelong socialist, and wrote many essays on the subject. Can Pygmalion be interpreted as a socialist text?
  2. In the play, we are introduced to members of a number of different classes and areas of society. That said, does Shaw leave anyone out? Or, to put it another way, does he offer us a view of it in full?
  3. Why is it that the play's poorest characters, Eliza and her father, are also two of their most gifted?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Shaw argues that societal change can and must begin on the personal, spiritual level, that change can be affected with words, not weapons.

Pygmalion allows us to observe a society in flux and understand the problems which crop up in an "age of upstarts."

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