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Strong Females in Three Works
The female protagonist in George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion is Eliza Doolittle, and she begins her character development from a position of such awkward crudeness, sassiness and social weakness that she has a long, long way to go before she becomes a strong female. This makes her rise into feminism and womanhood and strength all the more dramatic. From rags to riches in a modest sense describes her ascension. She begins the story as a flower girl with terrible speech patterns is bumped into and her flowers fall into the mud.
The interest shown in Eliza at the outset of the play is simply because Henry Higgins, professor of phonetics, wishes to teach her proper spoken English. Eliza is a rebellious young woman, who shows her antisocial side by refusing to pay the taxi fare in the first act. That fact notwithstanding, Eliza shows great interest in becoming more adept at speaking. Well, what Eliza envisions is being able to make more sophisticated conversation with customers at her flower shop, which is a humble yet impressive goal for an uneducated, poor-mannered, but potentially attractive and socially well-adjusted young girl.
Once Eliza has been taught to speak in more appropriate ways, the next problem that Eliza has to overcome to become a strong, able, respected woman in society is to work on the substance of what she is going to say.
The play's directions clearly show her transition from an unkempt flower girl to a lovely young woman with style. At the opening of Act I, she wears a "little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London" (Shaw, p. 116). Her "mousy" colored hair is "badly" in need of washing; her coat is "shoddy" and her boots are "much worse for wear" (p. 116). Her teeth are bad and "compared to the ladies she is very dirty" (p. 116). By Act III Eliza is "exquisitely dressed" and makes an impression of "such remarkable distinction and beauty" when she walks into Mrs. Higgins' room that they are stand up and are "quite fluttered" (p. 164).
Meantime by Act IV Eliza is seen in an "opera cloak" wearing a "brilliant evening dress and diamonds, with fan, flowers, and all accessories" (p. 175). That having been said, her expression is "almost tragic" and because she has learned of Higgins' bet she throws his slippers at him. In Act V Eliza is far more skilled at conversation and can hold her own well.
Asked if she will "relapse" into the crude dirty girls she was, Eliza replies, "Never again…I don't believe I could utter one of the old sounds if I tried" (p. 198). Towards the end of Act V (p. 205), Eliza simply says she only wants "to be natural" and that she wants "a little kindness. I know I'm a common ignorant girl," she says to Higgins, "but I'm not dirt under your feet."
Riders to the Sea:
The sea is certainly the main theme in this play; the sea provides things that the people on the Aran island need, but it also takes away things, including lives. The woman that shows strength and resilience in this play is Maura. There are images and characters in the play that show the ability of a people to overcome great odds, and to be strong and spirited even in the face of poverty and violent natural world occurrences.
Maurya, the old woman in the play, has been saying prayers the whole night through as the play opens. She is praying that her son Michael returns safely to the island. A bit later she tells her son Bartley not to take the rope in the house (to use as a halter for his horse) because should a body wash up the rope will be needed to lower the coffin into its grave. Maura shows her leadership as a respected elder when (p. 25) she bucks Bartley's insistence; "Isn't it a hard and cruel man won't hear a word from an old woman, and she holding him from the sea?" At this point in the story, Maurya is an old woman struggling to do whatever she can to keep her family alive. She is so concerned that she sends negative…[continue]
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