Sample written task 2 – Question 6

 Sample written task 2 – Question 6
Prescribed question: “How has the text borrowed from other texts and with what
Title of the text for analysis: Pretty Woman
Part of the course to which the task refers: Part 3 – Literature: text and context
My critical response will:
Present the Pygmalion myth as a source of inspiration for George Bernard
Shaw’s play, which in turn inspired J.F. Lawton to write Pretty Woman.
Show how the plot of Pretty Woman borrows from Pygmalion.
Explore the differences between the characters in both works, pointing out the
significant differences between Edward and Higgins.
Show how the setting in the two stories is different.
Written task
The play Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw in 1912, used the Pygmalion
myth as inspiration. The story of the Pygmalion myth is one of a young sculptor, who
hates women, however, strangely enough, the sculpture that most fascinates him is
the one of a woman. Although the sculpture is beautiful, he is not content yet. He
keeps working on it, until there is nothing left to improve and from that moment on he
falls in love with his own creation. He treats the statue as if it is real and alive and
this does not go unnoticed. Venus, the goddess of Love, decides to fulfil his wish and
turn the statue into a real woman. In 1990 Jonathan Frederic Lawton was inspired by
George Bernard Shaw’s version of the Pygmalion myth when writing his screenplay
Pretty Woman. The effect of J.F. Lawton using the play Pygmalion as an inspiration
led to the similarities in plot and characters between the play and the movie.
However the setting and the time period of the play and the movie are very different.
This essay will explore those similarities and differences in greater depth.
First of all we find many similarities between the plot of Pretty Woman and the play
Pygmalion. In Pretty Woman a wealthy businessman, called Edward Louis (played
by Richard Gere) meets Vivian (played by Julia Roberts), a young lady who works as
a prostitute, when he asks her for directions. On the way to the hotel he actually
becomes a bit intrigued by her and asks to join him to his room. He orders
champagne and strawberries, which are symbols of wealth, and wants her to stay for
the night. The next morning he realizes that he needs someone for his social
functions that week and makes a deal with her, he says, “I would like to hire you as
© Brad Philpot, InThinking
1 an employee”, asking her to stay for the whole week. In addition, this also means
that she has to adapt to his life style to appear as a reliable date, therefore he takes
her out shopping and she learns etiquette for an important business diner. This is
similar to the story line of the play Pygmalion as Henry Higgins, a professor in
phonetics, wants to prove that he can fool high class society by turning Eliza
Doolittle, a lower class flower girl from the streets, into a well speaking lady as he
thinks he can change her cockney accent into ‘appropriate’ English. Similarly,
Higgins also uses symbols of wealth, such as taxis and chocolate to persuade Eliza
in following his directions. The plot of Pretty Woman depends heavenly on the story
of Pygmalion as Edward and Higgins both think they can integrate Vivian and Eliza
into a high social class by improving their appearance and manners. However as
both women show, this is not enough for them; in the end love and respect buys
more than 3000 dollars, limousines, taxis and chocolates.
The characters in both plays are also borrowed from the Pygmalion myth; Edward
and Higgins are Pygmalion and Vivian and Eliza are Galatea, the ‘perfect woman’
that Pygmalion created for himself. In both Pretty Woman and Pygmalion the stories
seem to be about the women who develop, learn and adjust. However, these dramas
are actually about the men, Edward and Higgins who undergo the most significant
change. For example, in the movie, Pretty Woman, Edward appears to have little
need for another person in his life as Vivian says to him: “I am going to treat you so
nice, you will never wanna let me go.” He responds by saying, “3000 for 6 nights and
Vivian I am going to let you go.” In addition as the movie progresses, we notice that
Vivian’s noble character makes Edward capable of feeling, sympathizing and loving,
three things he had never done before. This is the case in Pygmalion as well, where
Higgins discovers he has feelings for Eliza, but is not capable of expressing them.
After she explains, “Every girl has a right to be loved,” Higgins responds by saying,
“Liza you’re a fool.” On the one hand the works are similar, as both men struggle to
respect the women and express their true feelings. On the other hand they are
different, as Edward overcomes this struggle and Higgins does not. In fact Higgins
loses Eliza in the end, while Vivien and Edward live happily ever after.
Another big difference between the movie and the play is the setting. Pygmalion is
set in London around 1900, where Eliza finds herself in front of Covent Garden,
selling flowers to the upper class elite, while Pretty Woman is set in Beverly Hills,
where Vivian tries to sell herself on the streets between the drug dealers and pick
pockets. This great difference in setting creates the distinction between the
atmosphere of play and the atmosphere in the movie.
To conclude, both the play and the movie borrowed elements from the Pygmalion
myth. We notice that the movie Pretty Woman is heavily based on George Bernard
Shaw’s version of this myth, which explains the similarities in plot and character.
Higgins and Edward both create their ultimate woman and develop affection for
© Brad Philpot, InThinking
2 them. Nevertheless there is one significant difference: the Hollywood movie has a
happy ending. Vivian realizes her dream and finds her prince, as Edward finally
manages to express his love for her. In Pygmalion, however, Eliza does not realize
her dream, as she does not open her own flower shop. In the end, it appears that
Higgins is not capable of showing respect and kindness to Eliza, which is the reason
he eventually loses her. This ending is the main difference between the play and the
© Brad Philpot, InThinking