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Short Story/Novella Collection > Pygmalion - April 2019

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (last edited Apr 01, 2019 05:59AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4779 comments Mod
Our April 2019 Short Story read is Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, 82 pages, 1912

This is the spoiler thread, post all plot and character thoughts and comments about the book here.


George P. | 522 comments So I get to "break the ice". I have been reading Pygmalion rather slowly for a couple weeks and just finished. I had seen the old Rex Harrison- Audrey Hepburn film version of "My Fair Lady" long ago and about 10 years ago saw it performed here in Salt Lake City, which was an excellent production. I was curious then to see how the original play differed from the musical.
I thought it an excellent play for its time; I don't think it would be very well received these days without the music/singing though. Shaw made a lot of comments on human nature and society through the course of the play which gave it a lot of interest for me. I thought the characters were well-developed too for so few pages. The rather long epilog was a surprise to me. I suppose that wasn't read out in productions but just included in the written texts.


message 3: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bob | 4779 comments Mod
I admired the character Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl. She shows courage, strength of character, and an independent spirit. I enjoyed towards the plays end her standing up to Henry Higgins and to a lesser degree Colonel Pickering. But my favorite character was Mr. Doolittle, Eliza’s father, a penniless scoundrel reduced to ruin because he becomes middle-class against his will.


Nente | 774 comments I loved the play and the film, though they differ fundamentally at the ending. And really, the less conventional ending of the play works better for me - but the way Shaw relates it in a prose appendix is insufferable!


message 5: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) | 104 comments I thought Mr. Doolittle's role was very interesting. Shaw used him to illustrate his complaint about middle-class morality, and I thought he did it humorously and insightfully.
DOOLITTLE: ... Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.... [and later in Act 5] A year ago I hadn't a relative in the world except two or three that wouldn't speak to me. Now Ive fifty, and not a decent week's wages among the lot of them. I have to live for others and not for myself: that's middle class morality.
GR keeps correcting my contractionless contractions. I really like that Shaw refused to use contractions. He was ahead of his time.

I also thought Higgins' comment about the influence of language was spot on:
HIGGINS: ... But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her.
Unfortunately, that can be turned on its head, as we did when we separated American Indian children from their parents and tribes and insisted they not speak their language and learn English instead as an attempt to assimilate them. And now, what we are realizing is that if we bring back the language we can resurrect the culture, as they are discovering in Hawaii with the Hawaiian language.


Jess Penhallow | 60 comments I much preferred the ending in the play. Higgins treated Eliza awfully and did not deserve her.


Rosemarie | 1543 comments I agree with you, Jess. I had issues with the ending of the movie too.


ShazM | 16 comments I hadn't read this before or seen the movie/play although you can't help knowing the story! I think Eliza did have some affection for Higgins but at least she had the sense to not tie herself into pandering to him for the rest of her life. I think it's interesting that Shaw gave Eliza a weaker character for a husband, quite unusual, I thought, for writing of that time.


message 9: by SherryRose (last edited Apr 17, 2019 07:05AM) (new)

SherryRose | 257 comments The movie is actually more sexist than the play. Old Hollywood loved to show women as being completely dependent on men and wanting to serve them forever. The answer to all of Eliza’s problems is to stay with her man-god Higgins in the movie. Sadly, in the book, Eliza has to find her way after her transition from flower girl to lady. Higgins has put her in a very confusing place. Eliza is very strong and intelligent and she will find her place in the world.It’s better not to depend on such a horrible and sexist man who sees women as objects to mold into his image of what a “lady” should be. It’s best for her to shake him off and move on. Old Hollywood ruined a few good classics even though they were fun to watch. Some of the songs in the Rex Harrison/Audrey Hepburn movie were wonderful! It was actually a delightful movie in spite of the extreme sexism. It’s a product of the era it was made in. So many movies of the past were fun to watch in spite of that. I think the story has much to to with misogyny as well as the class system.


Rosemarie | 1543 comments The movie has wonderful songs and costumes, that's true. And Audrey Hepburn is good in the role of Eliza.


message 11: by George P. (last edited Apr 17, 2019 10:09AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

George P. | 522 comments Rosemarie wrote: "The movie has wonderful songs and costumes, that's true. And Audrey Hepburn is good in the role of Eliza."

Julie Andrews was also up for the Eliza part, but it wasn't given to her even though she was a much better singer than Hepburn, because Hepburn was a bigger star who would help sell it. That freed Andrews to do The Sound of Music instead, released the following year ('65). Hepburn's singing was overdubbed with a professional singer's. Her acting was very good though.


message 12: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten (kirstenaucoin) Jess wrote: "I much preferred the ending in the play. Higgins treated Eliza awfully and did not deserve her."

I agree entirely! While reading, I kept having memories pop back to me of girls ranting about how they hated the ending after watching the film at a sleepover when I was in my preteen years...


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