ABSTRACT

In Pygmalion, Shaw describes Eliza as extremely dirty. This article examines Shaw’s views on hygiene for the poorest in Pygmalion, those who were increasingly marginalized in modernizing London in the early 1910s. First, the article examines improvements in London in the first decades of the 1900s. Then, it explores the water schemes of two organizations: the London County Council in the 1890s and the Metropolitan Water Board in the 1900s up to the 1910s. The LCC’s schemes were deeply entangled with the Fabian Society, of which Shaw was a lifelong member. Examining the LCC’s proposals for water municipalization, this article argues that Shaw imbued Pygmalion with social criticism. With his descriptions of the short supply of water in Eliza’s lodgings, which resulted in her unhygienic body and clothing, Shaw ironically dramatized the problematic boundaries of class and gender identity in a social order commonly regarded as natural and even genuine.

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