Eliza Doolittle is introduced as a poor flowergirl. In the beginning of the play she is described as a neglected and unromantic figure of the play.” Her hair needs washing rathe
How could a lowly flower girl make such a drastic change into a refined lady? She could not have possibly pulled it off herself; she would need help. Thus is the case in the play Pygmalion, by G.B. Shaw. The poor flower girl, Eliza, is turned into a “duchess,” so to speak, by the other characters in the play. The characters responsible for the change in Eliza throughout the play were Henry Higgins, Mrs. Pierce, and Colonel Pickering, all of which had strong influences on her either mentally or physically. The obvious character who influenced transformations in Eliza would be Henry Higgins. He is the one who instituted the bet in which he boasted that he could turn her into a lady. He helped the transformation of Eliza into a lady by pushing her to the brink of exhaustion during her studies of the English Language. This made her stronger physically, but made ….
Professor Higgins is seen throughout Pygmalion as a very rude man. While one may expect a well educated man, such as Higgins, to be a gentleman, he is far from it. Higgins believes that how you treated someone is not important, as long as you treat everyone equally. The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another. -Higgins, Act V Pygmalion. Higgins presents this theory to Eliza, in hope of justifying his treatment of her. This theory would be fine IF Higgins himself lived by it. Henry Higgins, however, lives by a variety of variations of this philosophy. It is easily seen how Higgins follows this theory. He is consistently rude towards Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, and his mother. His manner is the same to each of them, in accordance to his philosophy. However the Higgins we see at the parties and in good times with Pickering is well mannered. This apparent discrepancy between Higgins’ actions and his word, may not exist, depending on the interpretation of this theory. There are two possible translations of Higgins’ philosophy. It can be viewed as treating everyone the same all of the time or treating everyone equally at a particular time. It is obvious that Higgins does not treat everyone equally all of the time, as witnessed by his actions when he is in “one of his states” (as Mrs. Higgins’ parlor maid calls it). The Higgins that we see in Mrs. Higgins’ parlor is not the same Higgins we see at the parties. When in “the state” Henry Higgins wanders aimlessly around the parlor, irrationally moving from chair to chair, highly unlike the calm Professor Higgins we see at the ball. Higgins does not believe that a person should have the same manner towards everyone all of the time, but that a person should treat everyone equally at a given time (or in a certain situation). When he is in “one of those states” his manner is the same towards everyone; he is equally rude and disrespectful to all. Yet when minding his manners, as he does at the parties, he can be a gentleman. If the second meaning of Higgins’ theory, that he treats everyone equally at a particular time, is taken as his philosophy, there is one major flaw. Higgins never respects Eliza, no matter who is around. In Act V of Pygmalion, Eliza confronts him about his manner towards her. “He (Pickering) treats a flower girl as duchess.” Higgins, replying to Eliza, “And I treat a duchess as a flower girl.” In an attempt to justify this Higgins replies “The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you ever heard me treat anyone else better.” Eliza does not answer this question but the reader knows that Higgins has treated others better than Eliza. At the parties, for example, Higgins is a gentleman to the hosts and other guest, but still treats Eliza as his “experiment.” Higgins could never see the “new” Eliza. Higgins only saw the dirty flower girl that had become his “experiment.” Much like an author never sees a work as finished, Higgins could not view Eliza lady or duchess. Since Higgins knew where Eliza came from it was difficult for him to make her parts fit together as a masterpiece that he respected. Part of Higgins’ problem in recognizing the “new” Eliza is his immaturity. He does not see her as what she is, he only sees her as what she was. This immaturity is representative of Higgins’ childish tendencies that the reader can see throughout the play. Higgins’ child-like actions can partially explain the variations in his philosophy. Try to imagine Higgins as a young teenager. A young Higgins, or any teenage boy for that matter, has a very limited outlook. They treat everyone the same; depending on the situation they may be little gentlemen or rude dudes. When around parents the teenager is rude and inconsiderate yet when among his friends he a complete gentleman. The adult Higgins’ actions are the same as the child. r badly,” emphasizes her appearance.
Beside that” She is as clean as she can afford to be”.
During the time of the play, Pygmalion, classes in England were
seemingly artificial. It is shown very well in Act III during one of Mrs.
Higginss at-home days the differences between classes. Mrs. and
Miss Eynsford Hill claim to be of the upper class and they act as if
they are in the upper class to try and impress Henry Higgins during
Eliza Doolittle is being tutored by Henry Higgins, a professor of
phonetics, to speak clearly and correctly; to change from her old
flower girl way to a lady of class. Having not been eduacated fairly
well and not having learned this new language quite well a remark
from Freddy Eynford Hill sends her back into her old ways.
At the being of the conversation, in Act III, Eliza is speaking
with pedantic correctness of pronunciation and great beauty of tone.
How do you do, Mrs. Higgins?she gasps slightly in making sure of
the H in Higgins…. Eliza starts to go off and loses control of her
emotions later on during the conversation when she misconstrues
the remark of Freddy Eynsford Hill. She starts to get like her old
flower girl self and gets so comfortable that she doesnt even realize
it. Henry jumps into the conversation and stops her and she finally
realizes what happens. The Eynsford Hills still seem a little bit
puzzled because they have never heard a person of such high class
speak in such a manner.
Henry goes on to explain that she is just talking the new small
talk and that everybody who is anybody is doing it. The Eynsford
Hills being the rocket scientist that they are dont realize that Higgins
is not telling them the truth about Eliza and who she really is. They
want to be accepted so much by him and his upper class friends that
they believe him and start talking in the same way. On the way out
the door Clara imitates the silly nonsense and laughs as she says
Alfred Doolittle is another character in the play that doesnt
really show a class distinction. When you first see Alfred in Act II he
is a trash man. He is an elderly but vigorous dustman , clad in the
costume of his profession, including a hat with a back brim covering
his neck and shoulders, states Shaw (the author of Pygmalion).
While his clothing and his appearance are disapproving, his
language of persuasion is very appealing. Higgins is surprised by the
way that Doolittle speaks and becomes somewhat interesting. He
says to Pickering, if we were to take this man (Doolittle) in hand for
three months, he could choose between a seat in the Cabinet and a
popular pulpit in Wales. As you can see, Higgins believes that even
though Alfred Doolittle is of the lower class he could be transformed
into a member of the so-called upper class in just a short time.
The class distinctions in the play are evident but you can see
that people can behave differently in different situations when under
stress; or just people behaving the way they do regardless of class,
money, or position in society.
Bernard Shaws comedy Pygmalion presents the unlikely journey of an
impoverished flower girl into Londons society of the early 20th century.
Professor Higgins proposes a wager to his friend Colonel Pickering that he can
take a common peddler and transform her into royalty. Eliza Doolittle is the
pawn in the wager. But little does Higgins know the change will go far beyond his expectations: Eliza transforms from a defensive insecure girl to a fully confident,strong, and independent woman. When the audience first meets Eliza Doolittle she is a flower girl peddling at 11 PM in front of St. Pauls Church. The audiences first impression is one of sympathy because she is dressed in rags and pedestrians are unkind to her. Higgins calls Eliza you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language. (p. 21) The audiences sympathy is intensified when we see Elizas wretched lodgings. These lodgings are much contrasted to those of Higgins in Wimploe Street. Not only does Shaw play on the audiences sympathy for an impoverished Eliza, but also presents her insecurity to us. In the scene with the taxi-man, she appears significantly defensive in her response concerning the cost of the cab ride. Eliza feels humiliated by the taxi-mans sarcastic response to her.From the start of Higgins and Elizas relationship, Eliza is treated like a child. Higgins says to her, If your naughty and idle you will sleep in the back kitchen among the black beetles, and be walloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick. (p. 36) Higgins treats her like this for months until the audience meets her again in London society. Elizas first test is at a luncheon given by Mrs.
Higgins. Eliza, who is well dressed, makes a remarkable impression on the lunch
guests. They are totally taken by her, especially by her confidence, demeanor and articulation. Eliza can only carry a conversation based on two topics: weather and health. When these fail her, she slips back and appears insecure.
After being presented in London society at a garden party, a dinner party,
and the reception at Buckingham Palace, Eliza succeeds. Both Pickering and Higgins agree that, Oh, she wasnt nervous. I knew shed be alright.(p.79) As the men brag about her success, Eliza becomes angry. She snatches up Higginsslippers and hurls these at him with force. Im nothing to you–not so much as them slippers. (p.81) Eliza then walks out on Higgins. She is now confidant and no longer acts like a child, but like a strong woman. In the final scene, Eliza asserts herself. She says, I want kindness. I know Im a common ignorant girl,and your a book-learned gentleman; but Im not dirt under your feet. (p.107) Eliza also declares, …Im not afraid of you, and can do without you. (p.110) Her closing lines, What are you to do without me I cannot imagine. (p.110) The Eliza that closes the door on Higgins is vastly different from the flower girl the audience first meets at the beginning of the play. Her decision not to marry Higgins reveals a mature and independent Eliza, a person free to choose. Elizas transformation occurs over the six months of her living with Higgins. Their relationship can be described as father/daughter. Her evolution into a young woman is evident in her rebellion like a daughter rebels against her father. It is only through this that Eliza can become an assertive woman. Shaws play Pygmalion demonstrates a girls rite of passage.
Entertainment from today’s astounding visual effects in movies to men acting as women in Shakespearean plays some centuries ago, have always been and will always be appreciated by many. Even George B. Shaw’s play Pygmalion, has given a few laughs, but not only made for engaging an audience in something fun and making money, instead to a noticeable extent for people to learn.
“Pygmalion” in fact, is a play filled with its popular misconceptions, like in Act 1 where a professor in phonetics happens to recognize unknowably a person he was meant to meet in India, while arguing with him on a street in London. Here the class differences are very emphasized since the play is based on a social interaction between the classes, and this causing social problems. These social problems are mentioned as the sexual tensions arise in the play. One of the most important concepts Shaw though is the Socio-linguistics, since the story is based on a bet of a common flower girl transforming into a duchess thanks to a properly taught English.
In most stories misconceptions are found to make the plot more interesting. Shaw also uses this technique for his story to attract the reader making one event crucial for the development of the story.
“He opens his umbrella and dashes off Strandwards, but comes into collision with a flower girl who is hurrying in for shelter, knocking her basket out of her hands. A blinding flash lightning, followed instantly by a rattling peal of thunder, orchestrates the incident”
A common example of a popular misconception is when two people accidentally meet in odd circumstances. In this case two people coincidentally bump into each other on the street: a flower girl and a man who is in a higher class than her. It is this collision, with “a rattling thunder” which “orchestrates the incident” that explains how all the events come into place and becoming a good opening scene. In the leading event the first themes are introduced: the class differences.
“Six pence thrown away! Really, mamma, you might have spared Freddy that.”
( Act 1, pg. 17 Miss Eynsford Hill says about Eliza)
The class differences are very defined and the upper classes disrespect is very marked as seen in this quote. The quote suggests pretty much an air of superiority and arrogance from Miss Eynsfords Hill part and little compassion to a person who is trying to make a living. During the period of time the play takes place society had its social classes heirachially the upper class there was no interaction at all with the lower classes. As the play suggests the distinctions between the classes were even clearer. The poor were divided into two: the deserving and the undeserving poor.
“I’m a good girl I am”
(Liza constantly repeats this in the first acts of the play)
As deserving poor Liza, the flower girl has to continuously show her innocence. She has to work hard and be aware of the police, since they are often there as a hindrance. Any little mistake when selling flowers can be the cause of jail. The deserving poor are the people who try to climb the social ladder by working and try to have a decent living, much different from the undeserving poor.
” Dont say that, Governor. Don’t look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I. I’m one of the undeserving poor: thats what I am. Think what that means to a man. It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the timeI don’t eat less hearty than him; and drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I’m a thinking man”
( Act 2, pg 58 Mr Doolittle says to Mr Higgins)
The undeserving poor, the people who spend most of the time drinking the money they have earned do not have any remorse of not living a life with middle class moralities with its responsibilities and duties. Mr Doolittle is a stereotype for this kind of living.
As mentioned the class differences are utterly shown and while this interaction between the two classes occurs the issue of the social problem arises.
You expect me to get into that and wet myself all over! Not me. I should catch my death. I knew a woman did it every Saturday night; and she died of it”
(Act 2, pg 47 Liza says about bathing)
The lower class had to be careful of catching diseases and protect themselves from the cold, London’s streets were harsh to live in. Bathing was, in fact, as the quote explains something to be afraid of, as nudity and issues involving their hygiene. This scene is like death for Liza, who has never even seen her own face in the mirror, which the author with his writing portrays realistically. These are one of the many social problems Liza is not ready to deal with. The act of having to give up everything she has learned throughout her life living on the streets is hard. She is suddenly facing new problems and a different way of thinking and living that is clearly illustrated in the bathing scene.
The sexual tensions that were not there before are now seen in the next acts. When the girl’s life of becoming as an “great opportunity” is seen as a “problem” for the women.
“Will you please keep to the point, Mr Higgins. I want to know on what terms the girl is to be here. Is she to have any wages? And what is to become of her when youve finished your teaching? You must look ahead a little.”
(Act 2, pg 42 Mrs Pearce says to Mr Higgins)
A conflict that is repeatedly mentioned in all acts, is this tension between the two sexes. To the men it is an advantage for a young woman to learn proper English and be able to climb the social ladder drastically. The women in the play, Mrs. Pearce and Mrs. Higgings instead see the consequences of the girl, the social problem, the adaptation she has to go through by living in an entirely unknown world. Socio-linguistics is included in this change of life the main character is dragged in to. How language is used was and is an important factor in every society. Mr Higgins, the professor in phonetics explains it being a decisive matter if one wants to climb in the social ladder.
“Men begin in Kentish town with 80 a year, and end in Park lane with a hundred thousand; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths”
(Act 1 pg 27, Mr Higgins says to the gentleman, Mr Pickering)
The author gives the example of a poor girl that by talking according to upper class is mistaken as a princess. As you speak you are perceived which Shaw illustrates in the play. When the flower girl was treated as a lady she acted as a lady. This is a good lesson to learn and can be with all kinds of people and situations.
George B. Shaw did not only write this play to entertain which this analysis elucidates. Class differences are conspicuous, but it is hard to know the characteristics of each if one has not been in that position, illustrates the play. Therefore, plays that interpret the views of rich and poor, deal with social antagonisms and those are enlightened in “Pygmalion”. Not only this even sexual tensions are studied. As the men focus on one objective the women do not, they analyze its surroundings, thinking about it as a whole with its consequences. This one definitely sees with the male and female characters in the play. The socio-linguistics, which the writer also has as one of the main themes, is defined to be the key factor on how you perceive people. Lastly, what he also puts emphasis into is the popular misconceptions that are crucial for the plot of this story.
Alfred Doolittles Lower Class Representation in Pygmalion
Realist author George Bernard Shaws Pygmalion challenges Englands upper class to realize the pointlessness of their flamboyant lifestyle and pokes fun at this society. Shaw writes to expose the differences in the lifestyles of the social classes and how different characters react to their status. Shaw uses Alfred Doolittle and his social status to depict a character that freely accepts his status and his reaction to eventually moving up social classes. Because of his dislike of middle class morality, appreciation of and the freedom that accompanies his lower social status, and his eventual climb into the upper class, Doolittle presents a desire to remain in undeserving poverty.
Doolittle, throughout the play, demonstrates a dislike for middle class morality. Before he becomes rich, Doolittle defines middle class morality as an excuse of never giving me anything. Doolittle represents a dislike for middle class morality and wishes for cheerfulness and a song like those in the upper classes. Doolittle believes middle class morality claims its victims. Eventually Doolittle becomes a victim when he is given money to lecture. Doolittle becomes apart of the upper class but dislikes being viewed as a member of this society. Doolittle says that he believes lower class men look at him and envy him. Doolittle says he, in fact, will look down to the lower class helpless and envy them. Doolittle does not like the upper classes and middle class morality.
Throughout the play, Doolittle presents characteristics that suggest he accepts his current lower class social status and enjoys the freedom associated with his status. When asked by Colonial Pickering if he has no morals, Doolittle
establishes his status and distance from upper class characteristics by replying, I cant afford them, Governor. Doolittle comments to Henry Higgins that undeserving poverty is my line. Doolittle represents an individual who lives in poverty and accepts his current placement in society. He continues by saying, Im undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. Doolittle does not want to be apart of the upper class society because so much is expected of them. Doolittle is extremely happy being in his current social status. He says, They (millionaires) dont know what happiness is. Doolittle believes the upper class is unhappy because they are living an imaginary life. Doolittle does not wish to be apart of the upper class because he would be expected to speak and act properly in order to retain his status within the class. Doolittle, an undeserving member of the lower class, is comfortable and happy in his lower class social situation.
Doolittle suddenly encounters money and is thrust into upper class society. Doolittle receives a share in a trust and is required to lecture for three thousand a year. Doolittle freely accepts the financial gain but soon realizes the social obligations that accompany it. Doolittle says, I have to live for others and not myself. Individuals who seek to take advantage of his newfound wealth surround him. Doolittle believes that everybody touches me for money. Doolittle sights one example of how individuals with money are treated better than those without money. Before he had money doctors would shove him out of the hospitals. Once the doctors realize Doolittle has money they cant live unless they looks after me twice a day. Doolittle, who retains the personality of a
member of the lower class, is upset because people are using him for money. Doolittle feels his is now expected to provide for everyone. Doolittle says he was happy before he got the money. Doolittle, who is propelled into the upper class, recognizes people are using him. He wishes and strives to remain the same person he was before he encountered money.
Doolittles dislike of middle class morality, appreciation of and the freedom that accompanies his lower social status, and his eventual climb into the upper class presents his desire to remain in undeserving poverty. Doolittle, a character who emerges financially from poverty to being rich, strives to maintain his lower class status and the way of life they accompanied this status. Shaw, by using Doolittle, successfully presents a character that is happy with and comes to appreciate his status in the lower class society and wishes to remain in that social class.