Mick Jagger is right when he sings, "You can't always get what you want." It's true, sometimes just by trying you can get what you need, but that's not always the way it works. What if you get what you want only to find out it isn't what you imagined it would be? What if your dreams come true, only to turn into nightmares? They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Well, in Pygmalion that's true. That said, Shaw also shows us what happens after everything ends up wrong. He offers no quick fixes, but he does leave room for hope.
Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans
- Although Higgins is able to win the bet, and teach Eliza to speak and act correctly in the process, Eliza's dream of working in a florist's shop is not fulfilled or even addressed. Why do you think this is?
- Why is it that Higgins is so interested in the bet anyway? Is it just a matter of vanity? Does he really hope, for Eliza's sake, that he can do it?
- The play does not end with the happy ending we might have first expected, but does that necessarily mean that it ends unhappily?
- Doolittle ends the play with plenty of money, he's on his way to get married, and he seems to have patched things up with his daughter. In most plays, this would be cause for celebration, but he doesn't seem all that thrilled about it. What does this say about our usual expectations for happiness and success?
Chew on This
Eliza only completes her transformation when she realizes that her original dreams were unrealistic; that is, she can only really function as an individual when she is forced to reconsider the usefulness of her education.
Eliza's own aspirations are frustrated by the very conditions which should have, supposedly, enabled them. By agreeing to participate in Higgins's bet, she also agrees, ultimately, to compromise.