Distinctive voices give us a small insight into how we, as people, perceive and make judgments about each another. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, In any relationship between two people, there will always be one who takes on the dominant role through Voice. It’s their choice of what they say and how they say it that gives insight into their character.
Some characteristics of voice that we take into account are register, range, accent, tone, volume and pitch. In a movie such as “Rain Man”, we hear the timbre of Dustin Hoffman’s flat, autistic monotone. In the play, Pygmalion, we are asked to provide for ourselves the sound of Eliza Doolittle’s cockney twang.
Through the study of ”Pygmalion”, and the 1988 film, “Rain Man, we can see how distinctive voice lead us to make judgments about the characteristics and capabilities of the characters and contribute to our understanding and appreciation of both texts. In Shaw’s Pygmalion, the function of voice is central to the exploration of issues such as class struggle and power struggles.
Through Higgins’s efforts to refine Eliza’s accent and manner, we see a snapshot of the balance of power that favors those with means and influence. Higgins’ motives for conducting this experiment reflect the judgment and manipulation that lower socio-economic parties , are subjected to by the upper crust. In the same way, we see that Charlie, who sees himself as being superior in intellect, identifies Raymond as being intellectually inferior. Ray’s expressionless and literal responses define his capabilities.
“Listen Ray, our Dad died. That means he’s not with us anymore. Did they tell you about that?” Ray: I don’t know Charlie: You don’t know if they told you or you don’t know what death is? Ray: I don’t know” Charlie’s voice is agitated, aggressive and unsympathetic towards his autistic brother. He has no understanding of the fact that he can’t change Ray to be “normal”
Higgins believes he can transform the lowly and unrefined Eliza. To Higgins, her voice is the badge of this class struggle: “A women that utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere--no right to live.” Both the educated voices of Higgins and Charlie, attempt to convince us that their viewpoint of the status of Eliza and Ray, are the views that we should adopt.
In both these texts, the underdogs are given an innocent voice. Their innocence speaks to us about their purity and lack of motive or agenda. Eliza just wants a chance to be seen as something other than an uneducated urchin as she plaintively announces: “I washed me face and hands before I come, I did”
The simplicity and lack of sophistication of her words lead us to be believe that she is simple and unsophisticated.
For Ray, who has just inherited 3 million dollars, his uncomprehending voice gives us the clue to his lack of financial understanding and the folly of putting him in charge of such a large sum of money. Doctor: Ray, do you know how much a candy bar costs?
Ray: ‘Bout a hundred dollars. Doctor: do you know how much one of those new compact cars cost? Ray: ‘Bout a hundred dollars”
Distinctive voices are used to allude to ideas about the speaker, which are not explicitly stated in the text. For example we are led to believe that because Raymond has no idea about money that he is somehow lacking in intelligence. We are also led to believe that Eliza is somehow lacking in intelligence purely due to her humble position in life.
When we watch Ray’s dazzling ability to count cards at the casino, and Eliza’s growing understanding of who she really is, their distinctive voices change so that we can see their true capabilities. “ I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you have made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else” Distinctive voice has the power to lead us to understand information, which is not explicitly stated. As we have seen from Henry Higgins and Charlie Babbitt the perceived dominance of the voice does not always transfer into being the superior character.
Through Pygmalion and Rain Man, it can be seen that the distinctive voices in the two texts help identify and classify the characters by giving the audience insights, both real and implied, into their characteristics.As a result of studying the texts, I have learned to identify and appreciate the similarities and differences in the way that Distinctive Voice is used to convey meaning in Pygmalion and Rain Man. I now have a deeper understanding of how the device of Distinctive Voice enhances the appreciation and understanding of these and other texts.