Shaw's primary purposes in writing Pygmalion, the story of a phonetics professor who, on a bet, transforms a guttersnipe of a flower girl into a lady, was to educate. The title of the play comes from the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who created a statue of surpassing beauty; at his request, the gods animated the statue as Galatea. The myth is updated, and substantially altered, by Shaw; instead of a statue, Galatea is Eliza Doolittle, a Covent Garden flower girl, whose accent immediately marks her out as from the very bottom of the English class structure. Professor Henry Higgins, an expert on accents and pronunciation, represents Pygmalion. He undertakes to transform her speech so that she can be taken for a duchess at a society party and succeeds in spite of the inherent difficulties.
In his foreword to the play, Shaw writes, "It is so intensely and deliberately didactic, and its subject is esteemed so dry, that I delight in throwing it at the heads of the wiseacres who repeat the parrot cry that art should never be didactic. It goes to prove my contention that great art can never be anything else."
Enslavement shapes many of the relationships in Jean Rhys's novel "Wide Sargasso Sea" -- not just those between blacks and whites. The mood is one of change, decline, and danger, heightened by isolation. The setting is the island of Jamaica, the community is white and English - but the family of Antoinette, the heroine, is excluded from white ranks because of her stepmother's Martiniquan origin. The death of the father has cast the children adrift: here, the father is associated with the past - identified in the novel with the time of slavery. Christophine is an ex-slave, also Martiniquan, a friend to Antoinette's mother and then to Antoinette herself: she becomes a powerful black voice in the novel, as she is never afraid to speak her mind. Annette keeps repeating the word "marooned" over and over again, as she feels helplessly imprisoned at Coulibri Estate after the death of her husband, Likewise, Antoinette is so in-love and dependent on her husband that she is doomed to this strange form of enslavement. Women's childlike dependence on fathers and husbands represents a figurative slavery that is made literal in Antoinette's ultimate physical captivity.
Starting with Homer's Odyssey and Helen of Troy, great beauty became an increasing burden on the self-confidence of women, up to our times. In the romance novel, the model heroine has long represented this ideal of the perfect beauty. But the realistic heroine is much more present lately, and captures readers' attention just as much as her perfect predecessor did.
Jane Austen's heroines and Bronte's Jane Eyre, or Jean Rhys's Antoinette are prototypes of this character, but the usual heroines in most romance novels reference the common woman. This heroine accepts the general opinion around her that her looks, or her manners, or her thinking aren't special. However, while she may want a better life, she doesn't focus on perfection the way her society does. A realistic heroin is unsophisticated, modest, honest, tranquil, of good intellect and independent by choice. Any suffering she experiences stems from the limits society places on her because of her looks.
As George Bernard Shaw said of Eliza Doolittle, "You use a glass mirror to see the face; you use works of art to see the soul." Shaw's "Pygmalion," later adapted into "My Fair Lady," was about the heroine's need for a better job and the better way of life that went with it. Eliza doesn't want nor think about transforming into a duchess. Professor Higgins doesn't fall in love, although the producers of "My Fair Lady" seemed to have forgotten about that; Shaw resisted that change in his hero even when his audience wanted it. To him, the story was about the cost of upper class meddling to improve the lives of the lower class. Although her appearance may be different, this isn't the way Eliza wins Prof. Higgins. In "My Fair Lady," her perception of her appearance, and the hero's perception change because they managed to fall in love.
The five acts of "Pygmalion" can be divided into three parts: Act 1 -- a general introduction, Acts 2-3 -- the bet and its fulfillment, and Acts 4-5 - Eliza's "independence" from Higgins.
The first act is mainly expository and lighthearted. Toward the end of the act, the antagonists are engaged and the conflict is initiated. Here we find something that might be called call Eliza's awakening. It is the moment, after meeting Higgins, that she is realizing by herself that she doesn't know how to speak or behave like a lady, and she decides to change. So in the beginning a reader sees a poor girl completely inexperienced, from more than one perspective. Eliza's soul is like a piece of marble that a sculptor has in front of him. The remembrance of Pygmalion's myth is complete as Eliza - Galatea and Higgins - Pygmalion stand in front of each other. But this Galatea is a little bit different: it is Eliza who goes to Higgins asking him to teach her how to speak, it's the creation who wants to be equal to the creator, not the contrary, as in the myth. Therefore, Galatea is already awakening: she knows she can change and that's the main reason for which she wants to transform herself.
In the second and third acts the action oscillates in an atmosphere of mounting tension from good fortune to bad. The new Eliza takes shape. Sculptor Higgins is working on his creation: Eliza is learning how to behave like a lady and how to speak correctly. Galatea is very intelligent, and that is what makes the learning process so fast. However, Higgins doesn't seem to realize that Eliza is not only learning to be a lady, but she is also learning how to be a human being.
In act three, we find the first trial: Eliza's learning process is almost completed. Galatea is close to becoming a statue, as Higgins has dreamed. They go to Higgins' mother together and Eliza is introduced into society, but this introduction seems to be awfully artificial and Eliza is speaking like a parrot.
In act four the stage is generally filled with people and there is an outburst of some kind -a scandal, a quarrel, a challenge. At this point, things usually look pretty bad for the hero and the climax is also in this act. It's here where we finally meet Lady Eliza. Galatea is completed, but this Galatea is much more than a simple statue: she has her own ideas and attitude, her own soul -- she is now a complete human being. But Higgins - Pygmalion, cannot accept that his creation has her own life. Higgins embodies an upside down Pygmalion myth, so he tries to fight against his creation and therefore often conflicts with Eliza. Galatea is now a complete human being, but her Pygmalion is still treating her like a piece of marble, the flower girl that is no longer. Although Eliza has changed, that doesn't bring her happiness. Higgins, however, remain imperturbable from the beginning to the end of the play.
The Epilogue tells the later stories of the characters - success through personal endeavor - Eliza ends up setting up a flower shop with her upper class but poor husband, studying accounting and making a good living, which nowadays seems almost as unbelievable as the romance.
In regard to the humor of Pygmalion, "the play concentrates on the comedy of the early lessons, and the early attempts to pass Eliza off into society. Shaw makes some effort to avoid sentimentality - the fact that despite the title Henry and Eliza don't end up falling in love is an example - and his lead could with profit have been followed by those who adapted Pygmalion as the musical "My Fair Lady." However, Shaw suffers from a sort of non-romantic sentimentality, as can be seen from the Epilogue, which tells the later stories of the characters."
In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys confronts the possibility of another side to Jane Eyre. The story of Bertha, the first Mrs. Rochester, Wide Sargasso Sea is a brilliant proof of Bront's legacy and a history of colonialism in the Caribbean.
Wide Sargasso Sea has three parts. The first two parts are set in the Caribbean, the third in England. The first and third are told through the words and consciousness of Antoinette, the second mostly through those of Rochester. The first part consists of memories, a struggle to narrate, perhaps within the consciousness of an Antoinette already confined in her English attic prison; the second and third parts tell of events close to, if not identifiable with, the present moments of their telling."
Wide Sargasso Sea represents a prequel to Jane Eyre because it tells an extended story of Rochester's visit to the West…
Sources Used in Document:
1. Page, E. Postcolonial Discourse in Wide Sargasso Sea http://www.qub.ac.uk/en/imperial/carib/sargasso.htm
2. The Victorian Web, www.victorianweb.org/post/caribbean/dominica/rhys/ripple18.html
3. Romantic Times Book Club, "Plain Jane - What's the Appeal? www.romantictimes.com/f_reader/f3a_49.html
4. Literary Encyclopedia, Article on Jean Rhys www.litencyc.com/php/sworks.php?rec=true&UID=8787