Jul 19, 2012

Pygmalion assignment ideas

Here are some ideas for discussion or writing topics  on Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

- Research the influence Ibsen had on George Bernard Shaw. Is Eliza Doolittle comparable to Nora in any interesting ways? If so, write an essay that explains how one can see Ibsen's influence working its way into Shaw's Pygmalion.

- Research the myth of Pygmalion as represented in Ovid's poem The Metamorphoses. Summarize the myth and show how has Shaw updated the myth for modern audiences. How has he refashioned the raw material and turned it into his own artistic statement?

- One theme prevalent in Pygmalion is the theme of self re-invention. One might argue that this has direct relevance to modern society. Consider the popularity of "makeovers", for instance, as well as the American myth of the "self-made" person, the rugged individual, etc. Explore how one might use the play as a tool to understand and critique these idea of self-invention. What is Shaw saying, and how does that help us understand the phenomenon differently?

- A related theme in Pygmalion is "class mobility." England is notorious for having a well defined and rigid class system. You might analyze Pygmalion as a satire of that system. See if you can identify the major characters as representatives of different British classes (this may require a little bit of research to establish the layers of the British class system).  Discuss how Eliza's social mobility generates comedic effects in the play. What exactly is Shaw satirizing? Then select a class system from your native country (for many it will be the United States, but it can be any country). Describe its levels briefly, then discuss the theme of social mobility in that country. What qualities mark a person as a member of a particular social class? Are they the same markers as presented in the play? Would it be easier/harder for an Eliza Doolittle to move up to a higher social class? What factors impact a person's ability to move socially?