by George Bernard Shaw
In this day and age, how does one decide which book to read?
More than anything else, we depend on our close friends, to set us up with books they think we’d like. Otherwise, we simply make a choice based on popular opinion.
That wonderful feeling when you are looking across a crowded room, and you see book just sitting there on the shelf, and you just know you are going to grab it in your hands, take it to your room, and just have a magical night together, that doesn’t really happen as often as we would like, does it?
Well, believe it or not, but this is what happened between me and this book… And it was indeed magical…
“Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable.”
It was only recently that I realised that this play is only inspired by the mythological characters Pygmalion and Galatea, while the plot does not actually follow that of the myth.
Simply put, the myth narrates the story of a master sculptor who, upon falling in love with an ivory painting he made, breathes life into it.
Set in pre-World War London, the first act begins with an expert linguist boasting to his colleague that he could pass off this common flower as a duchess, simply by fixing her language and her manners. When the aforementioned girl does indeed show at his doorstep for speaking lessons, his colleague makes a bet with him, and he embarks on this tricky uphill climb.
It is after this point in the story, where the drama diverges from the original story, and for the better too.
What happens when you train a girl to pass off as a duchess, and yet whom you always treat as a common flower girl? How does she proceed with her life? Where would she belong, with no other prospects?
In its own way, this drama can be considered a scathing critique of the then prevalent class system. The pride of the tenacious, confident female protagonist is a major defining point.
Back in the day, the drama was somewhat criticised for the absence of a meaningless happy ending. In many of the popular productions, this ending was often tampered.
Tree, the actor who played the male protagonist, told Shaw, “My ending makes money; you ought to be grateful.”
Shaw replied, “Your ending is damnable; you ought to be shot.”
Really, one must admire his convictions, as a writer. I can say with some certainty that this drama did leave an immense impact on my life, and on my writing style.
And considering the age at which I first read it, we are forced to admit that I was very wise at a very young age.
Well, anyhow, if you appreciate literature and linguistics, or are fond of strong protagonists, you will probably enjoy it…
You can read it here:
Of course, the drama did spawn a number of film adaptations as well, with the 1938 version earning Bernard Shaw the Academy Award for Best Screenplay, making him the first man to win both an Oscar and a Nobel.