Pygmalion

George Bernard Shaw – 1916

When I first came to this book, I was in fact so ignorant that I believed it to be a tale of similar magnitude as that of Metamorphosis by either Kafka or Ovid. I was therefore greatly unprepared for Pygmalion and the social drama which was to follow.

In my ignorance I was expecting an insight into the highly complicated patterns of the internal psyche coupled with a monologue of spouted consciousness, instead what I gained was a thorough lesson in speech. As one who has already prized the written word above any enunciated eulogy I must confess that I had placed but little merit in the construction of the well enunciated vowel and or consonant.

Yet there is much more to Pygmalion than the tale of a verbally retarded fledgling being welcomed into the warm embrace of the English language, even if this is in and of itself a strikingly interesting premise. Shaw’s morality bends to incredible nuances of sarcasm and acerbic irony with un-bound bravado but his knowledge and passion for the spoken word is what keeps the reader riveted.

From linguistic variations to oddities of dialect, the play stitches together the internal world of a phonetician. The character of note is not simply Eliza in her savvy manipulation of the patriarchy but rather Henry Sweet “a short of walking repudiation of Oxford and all its traditions.” It is he for whom the story rings so true and not least of all from whom the curtain draws its final bow.

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