Pygmalion in Conversation with Pierre Bourdieu:A Sociological Perspective

Document Type: Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor University of Isfahan, Isfahan

2 M. A. Student University of Isfahan, Isfahan


George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece Pygmalion deals with the social function of language and reveals that Linguistic Competence is one of the markers of social status. It presents the story of the social transformation of a flower girl into a ‘lady’ through linguistic retraining. This work has been analyzed from a variety of perspectives such as Freudian psychology and sociolinguistic perspectives. With regard to the social function of language we can offer two interpretations of the play: a story of successful education and social self transformation, or a failed dream of education in which education not only does not promote the social status of the main character but also results in a crisis of identity for her.
This article aims at exploring the process of acculturation in terms of the sociological theories of Pierre Bourdieu whose concepts of habitus, field, and capital are considered as a significant contribution to the disciplines of cultural studies, anthropology and sociology. In Shaw’s play the social positions of different characters change in different ways: through accumulation of cultural capital, especially language retraining, or through gaining economic and symbolic capital. Bourdieu’s insights, the writers maintain, can shed some light on the significance and modality of these changes. As such, the paper makes a case for the relevance of Bourdieu in studying Shaw’s work.