Before going into the analytical questions, there probably needs to be some explication as to how the Pygmalion myth fits into the consideration of robots as a topic. Although there is divine intervention, certainly a direct relationship between the creator and the created is a common consideration in literature concerning robots. Of course, Pygmalion did not have access to the technologies commonly associated with building a robot, but he did use what resources were available at the time to create an entity that was not born of woman. There are other myths in which beings are created through the efforts of an individual will, such as the story of Prometheus' creation of man from clay; however, that process of creation entirely delegates the role of the creator to a divine entity. Since the topic of robots involves the crucial element of human creators, one might view the Pygmalion myth as contributing to the idea of human involvement in the creating of an artificial life.


1) What is the role/function of the statue-turned-maiden? Why was it created?

Here the reader can see a case of pure projection. Pygmalion had constructed what to his mind constituted the perfect woman, or at least the most unprecedented woman relative to the ones he had encountered. On a physical level, he sculpted features into the object of his desire that would be most appealing to him. Since she could not react to him as a thinking, feeling woman, he made up fantasies in which he interacted with her. All this had to be dictated solely by his imagination and will.

However, this situation was not to his complete satisfaction. He wanted her to respond, but what he asked for negotiated a hard balance between his being able to define tightly the parameters under which she should operate and allowing her free will. This tension is a source of much conflict within later literature between the creator and the created, but in Pygmalion's case, the results of his work result in his satisfaction.


2) How human is it? Is it meant to be so?

The statue was remarkably human in appearance even before it was brought to life. On the other hand, the nature of her character is unclear by the end of the story. If she became a woman compliant to Pygmalion's fantasies, then she would become little more than an extension of his will--a tool or a plaything not much different from the statue she had been.

The ability to resist, to exercise free will seems to be crucial to the fundamental definition of human existence. There was no definitive manifestation of free will on Galatea's part. She functioned relative to Pygmalion's expectations and did not behave in any way that took her beyond those boundaries. This x factor that would have made her more human seems to be missing, but if she were to approach him as an equal, one might wonder if the ending of the story would have come to such benign fruition. However, there was no pressing of this issue, since Pygmalion had defined how the relationship should be conducted from the beginning. Other literature would find detrimental consequences to Pygmalion's lack of compromise in the relationship.


3) How does it act in society and how do humans react to it in turn?

Galatea fulfilled the role of wife and mother, but since that fell well within the expectations of Pygmalion and his society; nothing consequential has come of it. Relative to today's standards, this may reflect some limitations in perception with regard to the roles of women and to considering the real consequences of ostensibly getting what one wishes for.


4) What are the consequences within the context of the world of the work?

As discussed in question #2, she really does not function in any other capacity than an extension of Pygmalion's desire and will. Since there is no consideration of potential conflict in the relationship, one can assume that she does not evolve much beyond that role. To read more about the objectification of women within the thematic context of robots, click here to go to the film division of this website.


5) Does it introduce a new idea or aid in the evolution of the robot? If so, what is its contribution?

This sets a precedent for humankind becoming involved in the process of creating an artificial life. Admittedly, Pygmalion merely created the form of Galatea while Venus provided the actual means for Galatea to achieve life, but Pygmalion's desire to define his creation's existence informs the kind of relationship that can exist between the creator and the created. In Galatea's case, Pygmalion has essentially designed her to meet his every specification. However, the myth does not consider the viabilty of maintaining that level of control, or the potential for the creator to lose control of the created, or even be dominated by the created, but there are other subjects discussed throughout this website that examine those outcomes.


Return to Summary and Background on Pygmalion.

Go to Bibliography.

Return to Literature Index.