Distinctive Voices Essay Pygmalion

1175 words - 5 pages

Distinctive voices are an instrument that represents who we are and where we stand in society. Effective composers use these distinctive voices to reveal a broad range of issues in our society. George Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion” and Daniel Keyes’, ‘Flowers for Algernon’, both use distinctive voices to reflect their ideas on societal issues, such as, disempowerment of women, and mistreatment of the mentally disabled. Shaw uses the distinctive voices of Eliza and Higgins as a vehicle to educate his audience, while Keyes uses Charlie to explore universal themes of discrimination and acceptance.

In Bernard Shaw’s didactic play, ‘Pygmalion’, he presents many social issues that were ...view middle of the document...

‘I aint done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentlemen. I’ve a right to sell flowers if I keep off the curve.’ Despite the solecisms in her language, the audience can see that Eliza is an assertive woman who is capable of defending herself. This portrayal of Eliza as a woman was uncommon in Early 20th century England, and through her distinctive voice, Shaw challenged the audience to consider their views of women.

In relation to Pygmalion and the mistreatment of people, Daniel Keyes’, ‘Flowers for Algernon’ explores the role of mentally disabled people in society and how they are treated. Keyes passes his idea through the distinctive voice of Charlie Gordon, a mentally challenged man. Early on Charlies voice is defined by his solecisms, blunt sentences, limited vocabulary and spelling mistakes. ‘I thot that Dr Strauss was my frend but he don’t help me.’ Although he uses many grammatical errors you can see that Charlie realises he isn’t being treated in an ethical manner. As the story goes on and Charlie becomes more intelligent, he realises almost everybody had been mistreating him. ‘I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. Everybody was looking at me and laughing, and I felt naked.’ You can see here his vocabulary has increased, and has become more aware on his mistreatment. Finally when Charlie has reached the pinnacle of his intelligence, he is still being treated wrongly. His distinctive voice is now defined by a sophisticated tone and vocabulary, grammatically correct speech, devoid of spelling mistakes, and complex sentences. ‘But how can you say that, Fanny? What’s wrong with a man becoming intelligent and wanting to acquire knowledge and understanding the world around him?’ This had been said when Charlie was ousted from his job by his workmates. Even though he is a lot smarter and sophisticated than his old self and also the people around him, Charlie is still mistreated because he is different from the norm. Keyes has used Charlie’s distinctive voice effectively to drive his point across to the readers.

In Flowers for Algernon, Keyes also explores another issue that Charlie faces. From the tests and the operations that Charlie undergoes, we can see that Charlie wants to be ‘smart not dumb’. He feels that it will help his life but ironically, it ends up destroying it. Charlie goes from a genius to his old self in the space of a couple of months. His brain...

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