1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    WF Book Club January Selection: Pygmalion

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Dec 24, 2010.

    In January we'll be reading and discussing Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Just to give you an idea of what the play's about, here's what Wikipedia has to say:
    This play is available at Project Gutenberg, so getting hold of a copy shouldn't be a problem.
     
  2. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anybody else started reading yet? I tried to get Joel to act it out with me, but he wouldn't... :(
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh goodness! Pygmalion is absolutely not a romatic comedy, and Shaw was absolutely clear about that in the postscript he wrote to the play. Whoever wrote that was confusing it with My Fair Lady, the musical based on Pygmalion which turned it into a romatic comedy by having Doolittle fall in love with Higgins. If anything it's a comedy of manners.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I don't remember Higgins and Eliza falling in love with one another in the play (though it has been quite a while since I read it).

    I know the ending to the movie My Fair Lady is not from the play. I was pleased that the movie retained some of the witty dialog from the play, however.
     
  5. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shaw was explicit. "Eliza, in telling Higgins she would not marry him if he asked, was not coquetting: she was announcing a well considered decision." And "When Higgins excused his indifference to young women on the ground that they had an irresistible rival in his mother, he gave the clue to his inveterate old-bachelordom." Further: "...what is Eliza fairly sure to do when placed between Freddy and Higgins? Will she look forward to a lifetime of fetching Higgins's slippers or to a lifetime of Freddy fetching hers? There can be no doubt about the answer. Unless Freddy is biologically repulsive to her, and Higgins biologically attractive to a degree that overwhelms all her other instincts, she will, if she marries either of them, marry Freddy.
    "And that is just what Eliza did."

    All quotes from Shaw's postscript to the play.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Makes more sense that way. I never really liked the end of the movie, where of course she does fetch Higgins slippers.
     
  7. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    Awwww...I've never read the play, I didn't know the ending was different than My Fair Lady...
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, nothing I've written is really a spoiler, because it's about what happens after the play. Unless you were expecting a blood-fest at the end that left everybody dead -- I suppose I've ruled that out.
     
  9. hiddennovelist
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    hiddennovelist Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had my fingers crossed for just that, actually. ;)

    Nah, I was just kidding. I'm far enough in by now that if they tried to have Higgins and Eliza hook up it would be a stretch, so I figured the play ended differently.

    I have to admit that while reading, I started thinking to myself how crazy it was that there was so much judgment of a person based on dialect and how they spoke...but then I realized that that's part of what I use to form first impressions of people.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Ack. Sorry, hiddennovelist. Didn't mean to give a spoiler. Wasn't thinking!
     
  11. Chudz
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    I'm not too far into it, but I already want to throw Clara under a bus. . . .
     
  12. hiddennovelist
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    No worries, I finished reading shortly after checking out the thread, so the secret wasn't given away for long. :)

    Fortunately, she's not a major part of the play. I was just glad that they didn't continue Eliza's lines the way she was actually pronouncing everything...god, it was difficult to get through her first few lines...
     
  13. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I found Eliza's lines difficult to read as well. What really helped me was reading them out loud and sounding out each of the words.

    Out of curiosity, what version of the play are you guys reading? I recently learned that different versions either add or omit lines. I'm reading an online version found on bartleby.com, which is also the same version that Project Gutenberg has.
     
  14. hiddennovelist
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    Urm...I tried to find something specific about which version mine was, but didn't see anything. It's an "enriched classic" from Barnes & Noble.

    Edit: Also, I tried to read the lines out loud, but before I even got to any of Eliza's lines, Joel started making fun of my Clara voice. So I stopped. :/
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm reading the Penguin Modern Classics edition, which claims to use the "definitive text".
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    One thing I found interesting is that some of the play's major characters are introduced not by names but by their titles (i.e. the daughter, the mother, the flower girl). I believe that Freddy is the only person whose name we know right from the start. I haven't yet finished the play, so I don't want to prematurely say what I think this signifies, but it was something of interest that I noticed while rereading the first act.
     
  17. KrisG
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    I actually hadn't a clue what this was about when I first read the title. Had never heard of it, although I have seen my fair lady and seen this play parodied on a few T.V Shows, Family guy included. Look forward to reading this. Will start it tomorrow :)
     
  18. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm almost done with the play, and I was wondering how far everyone else has gotten. I'd like to start discussing the play in its entirety soon.
     
  19. Chudz
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    I finished and am glad that Clara mellowed out a bit during her other appearances.
     
  20. thirdwind
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    I finally finished the play last night. I initially found it odd that the play is described in the title as being "a romance in five acts." But now it's obvious that while this is indeed a romance, it's not a romance in the traditional sense. It's more of a love story of an artist and his art (which reminds me that I should probably read Ovid's Metamorphosis soon, since I believe the story of Pygmalion is originally found in there).

    As a final question to everyone, since the ending is sort of ambiguous, what do you think happens to Eliza?
     
  21. digitig
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    I think it's a romance in the sense of a fiction rather than in the sense of a love story.

    Because producers of the play kept ending it with Eliza going back to Higgins, against Shaw's wishes, he wrote a postscript to the play in which he explains what happens to her. She does not go back to Higgins. He's not interested in her: he's not interested in women at all, because none of them can live up to the standard of his mother. She's not interested in him: as well as the age gap, which she sees as insurmountable, she doesn't want to spend a life of fetching his slippers. She'd much rather spend a life of Freddie fetching her slippers. So she marries Freddie. His family manage to set them up with the flower shop she always wanted, and although they have difficulties they're financial not romantic. After all, he worships her and she likes being worshipped!
     
  22. Gannon
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    First, my apologies for only joining this discussion now. I got way behind with my reading and am now tackling this concurrently with Titus Groan.

    Anyone else struck by the heavy use of colons and semi colons in this play? I'm guessing it's just because of the period (time not stop), and the necessity to be hyper-correct - particularly given the characters' predeliction for grammar. Any other thoughts on their use?

    It would seem to me that only when we are properly introduced to the characters in the course of the play do we acquire their proper names as stage direction. In this way, the reader becomes more than a reader, a more an involved bystander.
     
  23. thirdwind
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    Since I read an online version of the play, I was able to search through part of the text to find how colons were used. Specifically, I searched through Act III, and the majority of the time, colons were used in the speeches of Higgins, Mrs. Higgins, or Pickering. I think Liza might have had one or two.

    Based off this, I'm inclined to think that Shaw had a special purpose in using colons. And so I think this is one of those instances where seeing the play would really be helpful so that you can see how each line of dialogue is executed. There's probably a subtle pause (or something of the sort) at the colon, though I can't say for sure.
     
  24. Gannon
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    I'm inclined to agree. Their distribution would seem to strengthen the argument. To your point on seeing the actual play - if one were to know the text intimately, it could be interesting to see how/if these points of direction were discernible on the stage. Without that in-depth knowledge of the text however, it'd more likely I feel that one would never suspect their prescence.
     

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