Six months before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.
The Pygmalion Effect
Pygmalion and Galatea in Greek Mythology
Pygmalion, a sculptor, is one of the most famous characters in the myths of ancient Greece. Because he could not find any woman that measured up to his ideal of womanhood, he decided not to marry.
Instead, he undertook to carve a statue of a woman that fulfilled his dreams. The statue he carved very beautiful.
He draped over her the finest of cloths and bedecked her with the most dazzling of ornaments, adorned her hair with the prettiest of flowers, gave to her the choicest of gifts and kissed her as a sign of adoration. Pygmalion was obsessed and madly in love with his creation. The spell the lifeless woman cast on him was too much to resist and he desired her for his wife. Countless were the nights and days he spent staring upon his creation. Excerpt: Pygmalion and Galatea
Next time he visited the temple of Venus, the goddess of love, he timidly prayed that she give him a wife “like my statue.” Venus took note of the prayer.
When Pygmalion returned home and kissed his beautiful statue, it came to life. Taking the name Galatea, she accepted Pygmalion’s hand in marriage.
Connection to Sunday's First Reading
Fact is even more wonderful than fiction. God the creator is the divine sculptor. He shaped each one of us, and then fell in love with those whom he had made. “…O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of Your hands.” (Isaiah 64:7. Today’s first reading).
Related Examples in Fiction:
- PINOCCHIO: The wood-carved boy who was brought to life by a fairy-lady because of a man's wish to have children. (Though in this case, the puppet possesses sentience prior to its transformation; it is the puppet and not its creator, the woodcarver Geppetto, who beseeches the divine powers for the miracle.)
- MY FAIR LADY, the play (1956) and film (1964) were inspired by George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, a modern variant of the myth. An underclass flower-girl Eliza Doolittle is metaphorically "brought to life" by a phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, who teaches her to refine her accent and conversation and otherwise conduct herself with upper-class manners in social situations.
- LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007 film) tells the story of a man who purchases a doll and treats her as a real person in order to reconnect with the rest of the world. Although she never comes to life, he believes she is real, and in doing so develops more connections to his community. When he no longer needs her, he lets her go. This is a reversal of the myth of Pygmalion. (Bazzoli, Meredith. "The Metamorphoses of the Pygmalion Myth: A Narrative Critique of Lars and the Real Girl". allacademic. NCA 95th Annual Convention.)
- STAR TREK explores the Pygmalion theme in the following episodes: