Femininity in Shaws Pygmalion and Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea

Not all cultures held to the same rigid restrictions and expectations and these cultures were only beginning to find their voice and have it heard in the 1960s. What these new voices were saying was also reflecting a changing ideology among the general population, fanning the flames of a new definition. To understand these different viewpoints of femininity, both as an expression of a dominant culture as well as an expression of changing general attitudes, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, produced in 1913, will be compared with Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, written in 1966.It has long been recognized that George Bernard Shaw included many of his own personal political and social ideologies within his work. It can safely be assumed that the ideas of femininity he expresses in his work reflect the ideals of the society in which he lived. Examining the Pygmalion (1913), therefore, can reveal a great deal regarding the Western concepts of femininity as well as the ideals of many previous generations. The primary plot of the play revolves around Shaw’s belief that a common girl such as Eliza Doolittle can overcome her proletariat past with a little education and effort. More importantly, however, the concepts of progress for Eliza as they are compared to her father’s success illustrate the ideals of femininity held within Shaw’s culture and time period.The action of the play is centered on Eliza, a flower girl from the streets of London, as she works diligently through several impossible tasks set by Henry Higgins, a renowned linguist and member of the upper class, to try to change her diction to such a degree that she can be passed off as a duchess. Manly behavior such as speaking loudly or contradicting a man is quickly and harshly dealt with. That this is not a condition of her poor condition in life is indicated by Higgins’ more considerate treatment of Alfred Doolittle.