Magi Pygmalion

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This page is created by Sagar Pandya

A comparison and contrast found in the poem – ‘Journey of the Magi’ by T. S. Eliot and the play – ‘Pygmalion’ by G. B. Shaw

T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘Journey of the Magi’ is rich in content, imagery, symbolism and above all Biblical References. The poem throws some powerful questions to all the readers and seeks answers from them. This poem is very deep and hard to understand at the very first reading. Its charm lies in its complexity and ambiguity. Here the poet talks about journey of three wise men from East and their struggle. Their journey starts at a very tough time of the atmosphere – “the worst time of the year” and that makes the task altogether more difficult. The very first step proved hard and unbearable for them. They know from the beginning that the journey is too long and will be tough to accomplish. The very weather was sharp and it was bone chilling; “very dead of winter”. On the other hand, in ‘Pygmalion’ G. B. Shaw speaks something very similar. In the preface itself he makes his purpose very clear and tells that as a phonetician one can change the life of a layman. The reformation of the inner soul is possible if proper and systematic training could be provided to the countrymen. A planned rigorous linguistic training can bring a sea-change in the character of the person. He tells that English language can uplift the status of the person in the society. In the first act he introduces a Notetaker who is interested in noting down the speech of different class of people in the throng. The Notetaker feels that these people are not correct users of English language and in a way they are insulting the whole country. He is aware of all the hurdles in making them fluent speakers but as a humanitarian he never looses his hope. Hoping against hope he lives in the expectation that one day the change will come. The Flower Girl is also someone who lives in her simple condition but still hopes to rise in the society and dreams being a lady in the flower shop. Her dream is too big for her but finally she gets some silver lining from ‘The Notetaker’. In the poem – ‘Journey of the Magi’, the Magi are coming from a very affluent class and faces troubles in the rough journey. They have a very good and rich past and they can not forget that happy time. They regret the time when they took the decision to embark the fierce journey. They never thought that the journey will be too rigorous and tiring. The hard and paining ‘winter’ stands in sharp contrast to their cherished ‘summer palaces’. They are remembering the times when – ‘silken girls’ were ‘bringing sherbet’ and entertaining them. In the play – “Pygmalion” Eliza is very sad with her present life and thinks that one day she will also get all the high class luxuries. She sells flowers to earn her living but in her heart she has some big dreams. When she realizes that she also can be one of the Lady she quickly makes her mind and decides to take lessons from Mr. Higgins. Her journey to change herself starts from that time. She offers him money and shows her instant readiness to do anything to go the higher position in the society. But her journey to the better living also proves too tough and hard hitting for her. She had to listen to all the abuses and rash language of Henry Higgins whom she accepts as her Teacher. Each and every lesson becomes a long journey for her but because of her ‘quick ear’ she picks up the things fast and in six months becomes perfect Lady outwardly. In the poem Magi are suffering from all the curses and grumbles of Camel Men. They are not enjoying and are not feeling comfortable but in hope of having better future they are also tolerating all the comments. They are missing all the happy things which they used to enjoy and ‘lack of sherbet’ is too much for them. Without shelter and proper living conditions they are worn out and tired. Their night fires are going out causing trouble for them in dead winter. In the hostile cities they are unwelcome by unfriendly people and town dwellers. They are cheated and abused by the strangers of that unknown village. In the play also Eliza suffers too many troubles and in hope to get a polish life she keeps on with her lessons. She picks up all the words and sounds correctly and perfects herself to the extent that even Prof. Higgins appreciates her. She learns all the manners from Mr. Pickering and gives him full credit of that thing. She makes herself fit to be there in Embassy Hall and impresses everyone present over there. Her charms also benefit her and she finally wins the bet for Mr. Higgins. But still she is very far from the acceptance from her Teacher. She noticed that her efforts are not considered and her teacher took all the credit. He doesn’t speak even a word for his pet student who won his biggest bet ever. In ‘Journey of the Magi’, after reaching to the destination, the magi also feel that the fruit was not worth appreciating and they feel betrayed. After witnessing the Birth they feel that was it a Birth or Death? Poet brings himself here and he thinks that the change in new religion is really good or bad? Is it worthy or not? In the play Eliza also rebels at the end and asks for her rights. Her inner self comes out and she realizes her own efforts. She asks the very foundation question that – What will become of her? What is she fit for? Her earlier position and current position creates conflict in her mind and she feels flustered. She decides to take the biggest decision regarding her future and chooses Freddy – the weaker over Higgins or Pickering. She realizes her own strengths and power and decides to opt for Freddy. In a way like a powerful woman she makes her mind to support Freddy life long. Finally the poem takes so many references from Bible and it revolves around the events in Bible. On the other hand the play is based on a Greek Myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. But unlike the Myth here the heroine of the play rejects her trainer – creator – sculptor ; Prof. Henry Higgins and leads her own destiny. In the poem – ‘Journey of the Magi’ the transformation is well decided and not induced but in the play – ‘Pygmalion’ the transformation comes from someone else. Eliza wants to end up as a Lady in a Flower Shop and that is why she takes lessons from Higgins. In poem the magi are not satisfied with the change and same way in the play also Eliza is not satisfied with the transformation.