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Pygmalion Essay, Research Paper

I chose the archetype ?The prostitute with a heart of gold?.

An archetype is defined as a universal idea that can take

many forms, appearing ?spontaneously, at any time, at any

place, and without any outside influence? (Pygmalion?s Word

Play, Carl Jung, p. 82). When present in the unconscious,

an archetype shapes thoughts, feelings, moods, speech, and

actions. The ?prostitute with a heart of gold? originated in

early Greek mythology as the story of Pygmalion. Next, a

more modern version called My Fair Lady was written and

performed in the 1950?s. Then in the 1980?s the movie Pretty

Woman came out, which has the same story line as the other

two, although it is a lot more modernized and the theme of a

?prostitute with a heart of gold? is much more evident than

in of its predecessors. Although ?the oldest profession? was

just as large a factor in society in 1912 when George

Bernard Shaw?s Pygmalion play was released as it is today,

it was talked about much less freely and the idea of

reforming street girl was not as feasible as it is today.

?My Fair Lady? was one of the first versions of a poor

street girl metamorphasizing into an elegant, proper lady.

Pretty Woman can closely trace its roots back to ?My Fair

Lady,? because both women reform to a better life that they

never dreamed was possible, the most striking difference

being that Pretty Woman is a more modernized version and the

evidence of prostitution is much more evident.

In the story of Pygmalion, he wanted a wife, yet he saw

too much corruption in women and always doubted their true

motives. He was a very talented sculptor, and one day he

began sculpting an ivory maiden statue. No woman was

physically comparable to this statue, not the most perfect

naturally created woman. His art was so good that it caught

him in his own web of deceit. Eventually Pygmalion fell in

love with this counterfeit creation, full well knowing that

he would drive himself mad obsessing over an inanimate

object while at the same time knowing that nothing good

could come from his love. He caressed her, gave her presents

and decorated her body with fine clothing and jewels. He

even laid her on his royal bed at night to sleep, calling

her his wife. Finally, the festival of Venus came and

Pygmalion stood before the altar and timidly said, ?Give me,

I pray to you for my wife? – he dared not say ?my ivory

wife?, but said instead – ?One like my ivory virgin?

(?Metamorphoses by Ovid, p.10). The golden goddess of Venus

knew that he meant he wanted his statue to be his wife, so

she granted his wish. When Pygmalion returned home he placed

his hands upon his statue, and to his surprise she felt warm

and alive! Her lips became soft, and her skin molded to his

touch. Nine months later a baby girl was born to them.

In this Greek myth Pygmalion creates an ideal woman,

made out of ivory. Although he never expected her to become

real he still treated her like his wife and took great care

of her. Eventually his wish was granted and she was brought

to life. The perfect woman, in his eyes, was now his wife.

Pygmalion created and formed this woman, showing that if you

want something bad enough and love it as much as he loved

his statue, you can make it happen.

In ?My Fair Lady,? written during the era of the 1950?s

in England, there was a high aristocratic society which

demarcates itself from the rest of English society,

consisting of the elegantly dressed bourgeois class sharply

contrasting the poor peasant class. Eliza Doolittle, a

disheveled cockney flower vender who was lucky enough to

catch the eye of a Professor Henry Higgins who gives her an

offer she can?t refuse. Higgins is a well known phonetic

expert who studies ?…the science of speech…speech

patterns and their corresponding locations…? (Pygamalion,

p.19). He brutally criticizes Eliza?s detestable

?boo-hooing? and crude pronunciations of words. To the

snobby, intolerant Higgins inarticulateness and ignorance

concerning proper dialect and language produces a ?verbal

class distinction? that functions as an external indicator

of what class in society you belong to. He cannot understand

why some English men and women do not take the time to learn

how to speak proper English. Higgins makes the offer to

Eliza to stay with him for six months and he would teach her

how to speak articulately enough to pass in the most

exclusive social gathering, the Embassy Ball, without anyone

being aware of her Cockney origins, which is no small task.

He says that she will become a proper aristocratic lady who

speaks proper English. Once Eliza and Professor Higgins

begin ?business,? they practice the skills and

pronunciations of the proper use of English. Everyday they

repeatedly practice Eliza?s grammar, dialects, and speech

patterns with a recording device that enables Eliza to learn

from her own mistakes. In just weeks there are dramatic

differences in Eliza?s speech patterns that are apparent by

listening to their recording lessons. Not only has her

English improved, but her manners and etiquette have

improved as well, due to the help of Professor Higgins.

Months later, Eliza has been transformed into ?one of

them,? a member of the exclusive bourgeois class in England,

able to ?pass? at any social event she chooses, which is no

easy accomplishment. Thanks to Professor Higgins, Eliza can

mingle with the ?snobs? of the elite class, and no one has

any idea where she is originally from. Higgins has not only

traversed the ?phonetic stream,? transforming one polar

opposite dialect into another, but he has simultaneously

developed an affection for his star pupil. Although he

denies it to by telling himself that he can live just the

same without her, just as he did before, he knows it is just

a lie. The six months have passed quickly, and it is time

for Eliza to leave. Eliza is a fresh new woman, and is

capable of playing off the aristocratic role, to live a

sophisticated and proper life of her own. In fact she won

the heart of a fine gentleman, Freddy, and is planning a

marriage with him. Higgins is surprised, although he doesn?t

show it, and continues to act as if he is not bothered at

all by this development. In his mind though, he?s

remembering how accustomed he has grown to her face, that he

will soon miss. The two say their ?good-byes,? and Higgins

returns home to find himself listening to the first

recordings of Eliza. Shortly thereafter Eliza returns back

to Higgins home and surprises him with the truth of her true

feelings for him. She finally admits to herself that she has

grown to love both him and his lifestyle, and that Freddy is

not her true love.

The story of ?My Fair Lady? is similar to Pygmalion

because of the similarities between the archetypal

characters Professor Higgins and Pygmalion. Professor

Higgins has the intelligence and ability to take a poor and

uneducated woman with no manners and sculpt her into an

elegant and sophisticated lady who is able to ascend into

the upper echelons of high society from the streets of

England seamlessly. At the same time, Professor Higgins has

unknowingly ?molded? Eliza into his ideal woman. On the

other hand, although Pygmalion did not actually teach and

transform his statue into his ideal woman, his undying hope

for an ideal intellectual mate to suit the physical beauty

he created brought together divine intervention with divine

creation and formed his ideal woman, in his eyes. Again,

this is evidence that anything is possible, if you really

devote your mind to it. Although Professor Higgins was rude

and snobby, he still held a strong belief in his ideal and

it took a lot of devotion to take an unmolded human being

and bring qualities out in her that no one ever thought were

there. This example gives hope to every little girl who

aspires to be something she is not. Although Professor

Higgins did bring to the surface the elite qualities that

were necessary to fit into society at this time, it was the

untapped potential in Eliza which made it possible for her

to fit in and have confidence to become something that she

wasn?t previously. ?Higgins clearly lacks the eroticism of

Ovid?s Pygmalion, but his distaste for women in life?s

gutters, his passion for creation, for an art that conceals

its art in carrying a thing of beauty from raw materials,

his dressing Eliza in gowns and jewels, and his desire to

articulate life and achieve an ideal, all echo Ovid?s hero.

Pygmalion?s passions finally impregnate his creation;

Higgins finally sparks Eliza to give birth to the woman

within her? (Berst, p.13). Eliza?s growth involves

increasing self-realization, an evolution from a lower to a

higher state of being, and an important quality that

sometimes is not innately there and must be developed.

Pygmalion spent great time and effort in creating his

ideal woman. This gives hope to society, especially the

lower classes, that one can change and succeed if they just

try hard enough. The more advanced and modern version of ?My

Fair Lady? was spawned in a film entitled Pretty Woman. This

1980?s film is more blunt than it?s predecessors because the

?Higgins? character (played by Richard Gere) chooses a

prostitute (Julia Roberts) not as someone to try to ?pass?

into high society, but as a companion to himself. The movie

takes place in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, in a wealthy area

in present day, and is not so unlikely a scenario to happen

considering the day and age that we live in today. Gere is a

rich, cool executive who finds a soft spot for Roberts, who

turns out to be a strikingly honest, real and charming

woman. Gere decides to hire her for business and social

reasons (as a woman for display) with the agreement that she

is treated like a princess for a week. She gets a new

wardrobe, goes to the opera, and learns proper etiquette

manners for fine dining. We see Higgins plight paralleled in

Gere?s attempt to pass her off as a normal, Beverly Hills

debutante. We see Eliza Doolittle represented in Roberts

because she decides she wants more from Gere than money.

Julia ends up like a fairy tale character, succeeding in

passing as well as ?getting her man,? like Eliza Doolittle

and similar to Pygmalion?s statue. Each woman is transformed

into a new identity. ?My Fair Lady? and Pretty Woman are the

stories that more young women will be able to take

inspiration from and shows once again that it?s very

possible to find true women with hearts of gold. Pretty

Woman really shows society that regardless of your living

status, class or occupation, all women have the ability to

grow, change and succeed buried deep inside. Not all

prostitutes or street people are helpless, and meaningless.

They can have genuine hearts as well and sometimes they are

truly more honest and real because of the experiences that

they have lived through and the challenges they have faced

thus far in their lives.

In all three stories, both the man and woman can be

seen as an archetypal hero. Pygmalion, Professor Higgins and

Richard Gere all each take the risk of helping these women,

and society could view them negatively for their involvement

with the lower class. Eliza and Julia take a big risk in

being stepped on and being ridiculed lower than they already

are compared to the men?s lifestyles. They are archetypal

heroes because they have strong character and are willing to

change. These women have the confidence and ability to

change and this shows society that again, anything is

possible. The only downfall was the verbal abuse both women

took from the elite class, as they were learning to adapt.

High society doesn?t appreciate or care for prostitutes, but

for everyone to be fooled and convinced of this new woman

shows their absurdity. A person has a heart of gold

regardless of their status even if it is not evident to the

naked eye.

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