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Book Reivew - Pygmalion

By Sukanya Venkatraman 

The thing about a play is that it is essentially a conversation between people. It has none of the inconsequential beautification of the surrounding environment to give it more importance than it deserves, shifting focus only to shift it back to the protagonist in an attempt at suspense unless, of course, it is an aid to bring out the mood of the characters... in which case it’s justified. It is a rather exact portrayal of our lives, in a series of epiphanies and thinking-out-loud sessions. This is what makes a play interesting, well-moving and at the same time, difficult to write. Shaw, however, is a natural.
Pygmalion, a romance in five parts, is, in its essence, a play about different kinds of romance - the passionate Dr. Higgins and his romance with phonetics, the flower-girl Liza and her romance with the middle class’ English language, her father Mr. Doolittle and his romance with poverty, along with the gentle-hearted and good-natured Mr. Pickering, the sensible house-maid Mrs. Pearce who works for Dr. Higgins, and Dr. Higgins’ mother Mrs. Higgins. The play is beautifully written and in the series of conversations that take place, the characteristics of the conversationalists are revealed. The beauty, however, lies in the way Shaw has justified every layer of society - the poor, the middle class, and the upper middle class - without ever sounding defensive. An attempt to tell the world that people are happy the way they are, that trying to change their worlds in pursuit of betterment results in the same only in the eyes of the world, and not in theirs. However, what is the world without its series of attempts at change? One can take an instant dislike to Dr. Higgins with his chauvinism and cold-heartedness, his disregard to anyone but himself... but at our cores, don’t we all have a little of Dr. Higgins we attempt to conceal? What he is, however, is honest; which is exactly what draws one to the character.
The meeting of the various characters is so random that it is believable. One doesn’t need to make a special attempt to relate to the play, it comes naturally. Shaw’s insights into society and its ways are refreshing, albeit being a little judgmental. There are the small comments inserted in seemingly unimportant places, and then there are the long-drawn justifications. It gives one just the right amount to think about, with the periodic chuckles and smiles.
In short, a delight to read.

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Sukanya Venkataraman


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