by George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Mrs. Higgins] You mustn't mind Clara. [Pickering, catching from her lowered tone that this is not meant for him to hear, discreetly joins Higgins at the window]. We're so poor! and she gets so few parties, poor child! She doesn't quite know. [Mrs. Higgins, seeing that her eyes are moist, takes her hand sympathetically and goes with her to the door]. But the boy is nice. Don't you think so? (3.200)
Class distinctions are, we see, changeable. Clara, raised, we assume, in relative wealth, is apparently unaware of her family's changing fortunes.
MRS. HIGGINS. You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.
HIGGINS. Playing! The hardest job I ever tackled: make no mistake about that, mother. But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul. (3.223-224)
Higgins considers his teaching to be a kind of social work. The inability to communicate, he suggests, is at the bottom of man's social issues.
MRS. HIGGINS. No, you two infinitely stupid male creatures: the problem of what is to be done with her afterwards.
HIGGINS. I don't see anything in that. She can go her own way, with all the advantages I have given her.
MRS. HIGGINS. The advantages of that poor woman who was here just now! The manners and habits that disqualify a fine lady from earning her own living without giving her a fine lady's income! Is that what you mean? (3.4-6)
Mrs. Higgins understands one of the more paradoxical aspects of class: those skills that put a woman of Eliza's stature on the same level as a woman from high society only prevent her from actually sustaining herself, from keeping herself out of poverty.