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Pygmalion
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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