Metamorphosis is a classic staple in story-telling, perhaps the most popular and effective.
While accompanied by several other themes, we see Eliza Doolittle of Pygmalion and Edna Pontellier of The Awakening transform dramatically. Comparably, these women are quite opposite in almost every way but their stories posses many parallel threads. Bernard Shaw and Kate Chopin affectively apply the struggle for change, independence, and self-discovery in these two works. Eliza Doolittle’s transformation is only external to begin with.
She starts as an uncultivated ragamuffin selling flowers on the curb.Her ill-formed speech and accent – “Ahyee, b?yee, c?yee, d?yee” ~ Eliza, Act II – attract the speculation of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics. As a bet with Colonel Pickering, a fellow expert in the field of phonetics, he takes the challenge of molding Eliza into a well mannered lady fit for nobility. With much sass and often strong reluctance, her accent is corrected and her appearance is made elegant.
She proves herself at the ambassador’s party where her beauty and poise makes her the talk of the evening, thus winning the bet on Higgins’ behalf.That night, the real change in Miss Doolittle is revealed. She finally defends her dignity against Professor Higgins’ insensitivity and sets herself apart as a worthy and independent woman. “By George, Eliza, I said I’d make a woman of you…you were like a milestone around my neck.
Now you’re a tower of strength…” ~ Higgins, Act IV. Although smart-mouthed Eliza doesn’t much value conformity or social status, her new experiences help her gain self-respect. She comes to see that in truth she is neither a lowly flower girl nor a pampered duchess.Edna’s shift, on the other hand, originated internally.
While staying at her summer cottage with her husband and two small children, Edna Pontellier became close friends with Robert Lebrun and Adele Ratignolle. Robert was well known to befriend married women and adoring many of them only as a playful gesture. Mrs. Ratignolle was the picture of domestic perfection – the ideal mother and wife.
As a Creole woman she was devoutly moral, but still very outspoken on normally discreet topics.Adele’s frank way of expressing herself unintentionally stimulated Edna’s view of society and her desire to abandon restraint. Unlike the Creole women, when she was with Robert, there was a part of Mrs. Pontellier that could not claim indifference to his comical flirting.
She reminisced on unrequited romances, and the longing between her and Robert became more complex. As she tired of her routine duties and reserved manner, Edna became more impulsive and noticeably less considerate of her family, going so far as to move into a separate house.We begin to feel the neglect of her children, for either a nanny or her mother-in-law always kept them: “I would give up the unessential; I would give my money, I would give my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself. ” ~Edna, Chapter XV.
All of these urges and realizations, or “awakenings”, led to Mrs. Pontellier’s isolation and eventual suicide as she was unable to live in her own world. Other than the obvious theme of change, there are certain characters in both works that the women protagonists seem to have in common.For example, Henry Higgins and Leonce Pontellier assume somewhat similar roles.
They are both perceived as the distant and cold authority: Leonce is normally away on business trips and shows almost no affection besides his willingness to spoil Edna materialistically; Henry also provides financially and, although never presumed to have any romantic relationship, is mostly stoic if not insolent toward Eliza. Freddy Eynsford Hill and Robert Lebrun are another set of men who play matching parts.Both are love interests to the main female character. When it comes to money, neither is stable, but just as Freddy is “lovelorn” with Eliza, Robert is infatuated with Edna.
A considerable difference in this case is that Robert and Edna do not end up together. Their relationship would be a complete disregard to her marriage thus unacceptable to society. Further analyzing their relationships, it’s safe to say that the success or failure of either was contingent upon the involvement of authority or possession.Eliza and Freddy are successful because Freddy is to some degree the submissive half; he has no career or ambition and simply loves Miss Doolittle without condition.
She never wanted to be part of the same old union where she would have to “fetch slippers” or slave over anyone. On the other hand, Robert and Edna have the reciprocal condition. Robert is hindered in his love by the idea of possession; he feels that Mr. Pontellier owns her and cannot respect the relationship if it is only part of her search for freedom.
She opposes, however, remarking, “I am no longer one of Mr.Pontellier’s possessions to dispose of or not . . .
If he were to say, ‘Here Robert, take her and be happy; she is yours,’ I should laugh at both of you. ”~ Edna, Chapter XXXIV. These character relations are all common threads that lend themselves in different ways to their respective stories. Although Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening differ in light of mood, direction, and detail, they have several fundamental aspects in common.
The metamorphosis of both Edna and Eliza, whether their endings good or bad, are both tales of independence, struggle, and self-discovery.
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