Study Guide

Pygmalion Quotes

  • Identity

    Act 1
    The Bystander, The Sarcastic Bystander, etc.

    THE BYSTANDER. It's all right: he's a gentleman: look at his boots. [Explaining to the note taker] She thought you was a copper's nark, sir. (1.61)

    We see here that identity can be determined by something as small as a pair of boots.

    THE MOTHER. Now tell me how you know that young gentleman's name.
    THE FLOWER GIRL. I didn't.
    THE MOTHER. I heard you call him by it. Don't try to deceive me.
    THE FLOWER GIRL [protesting] Who's trying to deceive you? I called him Freddy or Charlie same as you might yourself if you was talking to a stranger and wished to be pleasant. [She sits down beside her basket]. (1.41-44)

    Even the things we do to establish a connection with unfamiliar people and things – like using slang or nicknames – can end up causing confusion and cases of mistaken identity.

    Eliza Doolittle

    THE FLOWER GIRL [springing up terrified] I ain't done nothing wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I've a right to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. [Hysterically] I'm a respectable girl: so help me, I never spoke to him except to ask him to buy a flower off me […] They'll take away my character and drive me on the streets for speaking to gentlemen. They— (1.59)

    Eliza seems extremely insecure about her own identity and character. She fears that even the smallest offense will lead people to look at her and treat her differently.

    Act 2
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. What! That thing! Sacred, I assure you. [Rising to explain] You see, she'll be a pupil; and teaching would be impossible unless pupils were sacred. I've taught scores of American millionairesses how to speak English: the best looking women in the world. I'm seasoned. They might as well be blocks of wood. I might as well be a block of wood. It's— (2.165)

    Not only has Higgins come to view his clients as objects rather than human beings, he even seems to have lost something of his own identity in the process. There is another interesting interpretation, however: a block of wood, like a canvas, is a medium for artistic expression. He, of course, is paid to shape his clients, but this suggests that he, himself, could also be subject to the same process.

    HIGGINS. Oh, pay her whatever is necessary: put it down in the housekeeping book. [Impatiently] What on earth will she want with money? She'll have her food and her clothes. She'll only drink if you give her money.
    LIZA [turning on him] Oh you are a brute. It's a lie: nobody ever saw the sign of liquor on me. [She goes back to her chair and plants herself there defiantly]. (2.121-122)

    Higgins stereotypes Eliza as a poor person and simply assumes that she has a drinking problem.

    HIGGINS. Pickering: shall we ask this baggage to sit down or shall we throw her out of the window? (2.30)

    Judging Eliza by her slovenly appearance, Higgins treats Eliza like an object instead of a human being. His comment is no doubt sarcastic, but it tells us something about his attitude toward women.

    HIGGINS. You know, Pickering, that woman has the most extraordinary ideas about me. Here I am, a shy, diffident sort of man. I've never been able to feel really grown-up and tremendous, like other chaps. And yet she's firmly persuaded that I'm an arbitrary overbearing bossing kind of person. I can't account for it. (2.197)

    Higgins admits that he sees himself as a sort of child, still in the process of growing, an impression which Shaw confirms in his initial description. At the same time, he is unwilling to acknowledge certain other highly visible aspects of his personality.

    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA. No: I don't want no gold and no diamonds. I'm a good girl, I am. [She sits down again, with an attempt at dignity]. (2.145)

    Eliza attempts again to define herself in contrast to stereotypes. She wants to make it clear that she's not simply looking for handouts; still, it's hard for her to look dignified in her dirty clothes.

    LIZA. I ain't got no mother. Her that turned me out was my sixth stepmother. But I done without them. And I'm a good girl, I am. (2.118)

    Eliza seems to have grown up without a feminine presence in her life, and she's proud to have turned out all right anyway. Perhaps this pride is what leads her to keep claiming she's a "good girl."

    Act 3
    Mrs. Higgins

    MRS. HIGGINS. Be quiet, Henry. Colonel Pickering: don't you realize that when Eliza walked into Wimpole Street, something walked in with her?
    […]
    PICKERING. But what?
    MRS. HIGGINS [unconsciously dating herself by the word] A problem. […]
    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. (3.248-255)

    Mrs. Higgins is concerned that her son and Pickering have been short-sighted, and failed to acknowledge the full extent of their task. Eliza's problems, like her personality, are multifaceted.

  • Women and Femininity

    Act 1

    She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist] (1.29)

    Eliza is not intrinsically divided from her fellow women. The comparability of their features – the only things which, for Eliza, are not totally diminished by her poverty – only reinforces their equal standing as women.

    Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill

    THE DAUGHTER. Well, haven't you got a cab?
    FREDDY. There's not one to be had for love or money.
    THE MOTHER. Oh, Freddy, there must be one. You can't have tried.
    THE DAUGHTER. It's too tiresome. Do you expect us to go and get one ourselves? (1.12-5)

    The mother and daughter, Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill, reinforce typical notions of femininity. It is a man's job, not a woman's, to go out and brave the elements.

    Act 2
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. Very well, then, what on earth is all this fuss about? The girl doesn't belong to anybody—is no use to anybody but me. [He goes to Mrs. Pearce and begins coaxing]. You can adopt her, Mrs. Pearce: I'm sure a daughter would be a great amusement to you. Now don't make any more fuss. Take her downstairs; and— (2.119)

    Higgins, in saying that Eliza doesn't "belong" to anyone, implies that a young woman should "belong" to someone; he also assumes that Mrs. Pearce, being a woman, would love to have a daughter to take care of.

    HIGGINS [dogmatically, lifting himself on his hands to the level of the piano, and sitting on it with a bounce] Well, I haven't. I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another […] Lord knows! I suppose the woman wants to live her own life; and the man wants to live his; and each tries to drag the other on to the wrong track. (2.161; 163)

    Higgins is convinced that not only do women cause him trouble, but that they cause trouble in any and every case; he suggests that men and women are basically incompatible.

    HIGGINS. There! As the girl very properly says, Garn! Married indeed! Don't you know that a woman of that class looks a worn out drudge of fifty a year after she's married. (2.105)

    Higgins's views are stereotypical, but his comments do speak to the difficulties which come with raising a family in poverty.

    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA. I tell you, it's easy to clean up here. Hot and cold water on tap, just as much as you like, there is. Woolly towels, there is; and a towel horse so hot, it burns your fingers. Soft brushes to scrub yourself, and a wooden bowl of soap smelling like primroses. Now I know why ladies is so clean. Washing's a treat for them. Wish they saw what it is for the like of me! (2.293)

    Here, again, we see how something as small as a well-equipped bathroom can separate "ladies" from women like Eliza; she also implies that washing is a particularly feminine pleasure.

    Act 3
    Mrs. Higgins

    MRS. HIGGINS. Well, you never fall in love with anyone under forty-five. When will you discover that there are some rather nice-looking young women about?
    HIGGINS. Oh, I can't be bothered with young women. My idea of a loveable woman is something as like you as possible. I shall never get into the way of seriously liking young women: some habits lie too deep to be changed. [Rising abruptly and walking about, jingling his money and his keys in his trouser pockets] Besides, they're all idiots. (3.22-23)

    Higgins has said previously that women "upset everything"; now, even as he admits to preferring older women, he tells his mother that all women are idiots. Not exactly a nice thing to say to your own mother.

    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)

    Higgins seems totally unaware of the place of women in society. Eliza herself will confront him and ask him what she is to do with herself after having been given such "advantages."

    Act 4
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS [a genial afterthought occurring to him] I daresay my mother could find some chap or other who would do very well—
    LIZA. We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road.
    HIGGINS [waking up] What do you mean?
    LIZA. I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else. I wish you'd left me where you found me. (4.63-66)

    Eliza tells Higgins two things: that she has no place in society anymore and that lower-class women have a stronger sense of morality than most "ladies." She and her fellow flower girls would never have sold themselves into marriage.

    Act 5
    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA [continuing] It was just like learning to dance in the fashionable way: there was nothing more than that in it. But do you know what began my real education?
    PICKERING. What?
    LIZA [stopping her work for a moment] Your calling me Miss Doolittle that day when I first came to Wimpole Street. That was the beginning of self-respect for me. [She resumes her stitching]. And there were a hundred little things you never noticed, because they came naturally to you. Things about standing up and taking off your hat and opening doors— (5.137-9)

    Eliza's statement seems curiously anti-feminist. (Of course, one has to be careful using these more recent terms when talking about a work like this.) It makes sense that Eliza would feel more special or important after receiving that kind of treatment, but at the same time the sincerity of her words has to be called into question. She does tell Pickering this in the presence of Higgins, perhaps in order to infuriate her teacher?

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Act 1
    Henry Higgins

    THE NOTE TAKER. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. This is an age of upstarts. Men begin in Kentish Town with 80 pounds a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths. Now I can teach them— (1.120)

    Higgins suggests that he is living in a time when dreams can come true, when rags-to-riches stories are, well, more than just stories. At the same time, he acknowledges that the movement from Kentish Town to Park Lane is not only a matter of making a fortune.

    Act 2
    Eliza Doolittle

    THE FLOWER GIRL. I want to be a lady in a flower shop stead of selling at the corner of Tottenham Court Road. But they won't take me unless I can talk more genteel. He said he could teach me. Well, here I am ready to pay him—not asking any favor—and he treats me as if I was dirt. (2.34)

    Eliza's ambitions are initially very modest and, given Higgins's expertise, not unrealistic. Only Higgins's bet inflates them, turns her small plans into big dreams.

    LIZA. No: I don't want no gold and no diamonds. I'm a good girl, I am. [She sits down again, with an attempt at dignity]. (2.145)

    Throughout the play, Eliza insists that she does not want the usual things: gold, diamonds, fancy dresses. She wants to maintain her dignity and achieve her original goal.

    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS [becoming excited as the idea grows on him] What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day. I shall make a duchess of this draggletailed guttersnipe. (2.82)

    Higgins himself seems to be a big dreamer. He is as much interested in the idea of "taking a chance" and dreaming big as he is in the job he takes on.

    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. (2.223)

    Higgins's task becomes more than a simple matter or training, or a test of skill. He is totally wrapped up in the idea of bringing together humankind, one person at a time.

    Act 4
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. It was a silly notion: the whole thing has been a bore.
    PICKERING. Oh come! the garden party was frightfully exciting. My heart began beating like anything.
    HIGGINS. Yes, for the first three minutes. But when I saw we were going to win hands down, I felt like a bear in a cage, hanging about doing nothing […] No more artificial duchesses. The whole thing has been simple purgatory. (4.21-23)

    Just as soon as he has achieved his goal, Higgins has lost interest in his achievement. He seems to confirm that old saying: "it's about the journey, not the destination."

    Act 5
    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA [much troubled] I want a little kindness. I know I'm a common ignorant girl, and you a book-learned gentleman; but I'm not dirt under your feet. What I done [correcting herself] what I did was not for the dresses and the taxis: I did it because we were pleasant together and I come—came—to care for you; not to want you to make love to me, and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like. (5.248)

    Ultimately, Eliza wants support and love instead of money and stature; she wants to be a good girl, and be appreciated for being one.

    I'll marry Freddy, I will, as soon as he's able to support me. (5.252)

    Eliza says this to threaten Higgins after he suggests she marry a rich man, perhaps even Pickering. Whether or not her statement is sincere, it represents a more conventional dream than her original plan, and certainly one more realistic than Higgins's.

    Mrs. Higgins

    MRS. HIGGINS. But what has my son done to you, Mr. Doolittle?
    DOOLITTLE. Done to me! Ruined me. Destroyed my happiness. Tied me up and delivered me into the hands of middle class morality. (5.54-55)

    Doolittle, like his daughter, seems uninterested in the usual kinds of success. Higgins has ruined him by getting him a job as a lecturer and a huge income. He was happier being poor and "undeserving."

  • Language and Communication

    Act 1
    Henry Higgins

    THE NOTE TAKER. You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party. I could even get her a place as lady's maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. That's the sort of thing I do for commercial millionaires. And on the profits of it I do genuine scientific work in phonetics, and a little as a poet on Miltonic lines. (1.129)

    Again, Higgins displays a sort of ambivalence about language. He treats it as a tool for social advancement, a suitable subject for scientific inquiry, and a medium for artistic expression.

    THE NOTE TAKER. Simply phonetics. The science of speech. That's my profession; also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets. (1.118)

    Here, Higgins shows that speech can be regarded as a science and used as a tool.

    THE NOTE TAKER. A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere—no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon. (1.125)

    Here, however, he invests speech with spiritual and cultural implications; English should be respected, he argues, is important because it is the language of great artists, and a gift from God.

    Act 2
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS [confidently] Oh no: I think not. If there's any trouble he shall have it with me, not I with him. And we are sure to get something interesting out of him.
    PICKERING. About the girl?
    HIGGINS. No. I mean his dialect. (2.206-9)

    Higgins's understanding of language leads him to treat certain people less as human beings than as test subjects

    Act 3
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. As if I ever stop thinking about the girl and her confounded vowels and consonants. I'm worn out, thinking about her, and watching her lips and her teeth and her tongue, not to mention her soul, which is the quaintest of the lot. (3.221)

    Just as he does in Act 1, Higgins associates the act of speech with the soul, the uniquely human spirit. Here, however, he also seems to make little distinction between the physical parts used in the act of speaking and the soul.

    Eliza Doolittle

    [To Freddy, who is in convulsions of suppressed laughter] Here! what are you sniggering at?
    FREDDY. The new small talk. You do it so awfully well.
    LIZA. If I was doing it proper, what was you laughing at? [To Higgins] Have I said anything I oughtn't? (3.122)

    Here, Shaw demonstrates how easily language can be misinterpreted. What would seem like normal speech on the corner of Tottenham Court Road becomes novel and humorous in a new context.

    Act 5
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. And I have grown accustomed to your voice and appearance. I like them, rather.
    LIZA. Well, you have both of them on your gramophone and in your book of photographs. When you feel lonely without me, you can turn the machine on. It's got no feelings to hurt.
    HIGGINS. I can't turn your soul on. Leave me those feelings; and you can take away the voice and the face. They are not you. (5.209-11)

    It seems strange that Higgins should say this, given that he associates the soul so closely with speech.

    Eliza Doolittle

    PICKERING. He's incorrigible, Eliza. You won't relapse, will you?
    LIZA. No: Not now. Never again. I have learnt my lesson. I don't believe I could utter one of the old sounds if I tried. [Doolittle touches her on her left shoulder. She drops her work, losing her self-possession utterly at the spectacle of her father's splendor] A—a—a—a—a—ah—ow—ooh! (5.156-57)

    Although she has been taught to speak properly, Eliza's "old ways" seem to linger on some deeper level, associated with emotion rather than intellect.

    LIZA [looking fiercely round at him] I wouldn't marry YOU if you asked me; and you're nearer my age than what he is.
    HIGGINS [gently] Than he is: not "than what he is."
    LIZA [losing her temper and rising] I'll talk as I like. You're not my teacher now. (5.232-34)

    By using incorrect English, by rebelling against the standards of English grammar, Eliza is able to rebel against Higgins as well.

    LIZA. I can't. I could have done it once; but now I can't go back to it. Last night, when I was wandering about, a girl spoke to me; and I tried to get back into the old way with her; but it was no use. You told me, you know, that when a child is brought to a foreign country, it picks up the language in a few weeks, and forgets its own. Well, I am a child in your country. I have forgotten my own language, and can speak nothing but yours. That's the real break-off with the corner of Tottenham Court Road. Leaving Wimpole Street finishes it. (5.152)

    Throughout Pygmalion, "correct" language is portrayed as a unifying force. Here, Eliza demonstrates that it can also be divisive.

  • Transformation

    Act 1
    Henry Higgins

    THE NOTE TAKER. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. This is an age of upstarts. Men begin in Kentish Town with 80 pounds a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths. Now I can teach them— (1.120)

    Moving up in society can require a complete transformation; money, it seems, can't buy everything.

    Act 2

    The flower girl enters in state. She has a hat with three ostrich feathers, orange, sky-blue, and red. She has a nearly clean apron, and the shoddy coat has been tidied a little. The pathos of this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air, touches Pickering, who has already straightened himself in the presence of Mrs. Pearce. (2.21)

    What seems like an honest attempt at "looking respectable" to Eliza seems merely pitiful to Pickering. Not all transformations are successful, and sometimes the failure to change can be more affecting than success.

    The Bystander, The Sarcastic Bystander, etc.

    [[Doolittle] hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.
    THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don't you know your own daughter? (2.289-290)

    Given the right circumstances, even the most superficial adjustment can lead to a profound and surprising change.

    Act 3
    Colonel Pickering

    PICKERING. We're always talking Eliza.
    HIGGINS. Teaching Eliza.
    PICKERING. Dressing Eliza.
    MRS. HIGGINS. What!
    HIGGINS. Inventing new Elizas. (3.226-244)

    Pickering and Higgins, caught up in the process of "inventing new Elizas," seem to have forgotten that she is a human being just as they are.

    Act 4
    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA [pulling herself together in desperation] What am I fit for? What have you left me fit for? Where am I to go? What am I to do? What's to become of me? (4.60)

    Having achieved her goal and won the bet, Eliza finds that her metamorphosis has left her confused. Having just "become" something new, she is already afraid of what will come next.

    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS [with dignity, in his finest professional style] You have caused me to lose my temper: a thing that has hardly ever happened to me before. I prefer to say nothing more tonight. I am going to bed. (4.89)

    Higgins, so used to being in control, is disappointed and frustrated to find himself losing hold of his emotions. He, the transformer, has become the transformed, if only momentarily.

    Act 5
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you were like a millstone round my neck. Now you're a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl. (5.265)

    Higgins acts as though he were waiting for Eliza's final act of defiance the whole the time; it is hard to say, however, whether his confidence is as great as he makes it seem.

    HIGGINS. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can't change my nature; and I don't intend to change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering's. (5.191)

    In claiming that he can't change his own nature, Higgins complicates his own claims about change and transformation; if he can't change his nature, we have to wonder, how can he really understand how to change someone else's?

    Eliza Doolittle

    Eliza. You see, really and truly, apart from the things anyone can pick up (the dressing and the proper way of speaking, and so on), the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will. (5.143)

    Ironically, Eliza argues that the man who taught her to be a lady will never see her or treat her as one. She also suggests that transformation is subjective, that not all people will acknowledge all changes.

    Eliza enters, sunny, self-possessed, and giving a staggeringly convincing exhibition of ease of manner. She carries a little work-basket, and is very much at home. Pickering is too much taken aback to rise.
    LIZA. How do you do, Professor Higgins? Are you quite well?
    HIGGINS [choking] Am I— [He can say no more]. (5.115-117)

    Here, once again, Higgins is stunned to find that his "creation" is now able to control and change her manner with ease. That said, Shaw's use of the word "exhibition" casts the truth of that change in doubt.

  • Society and Class

    Act 1

    THE FLOWER GIRL. [She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist]. (1.29)

    More than just language separates Eliza from her fellow women; even here, we see that she would be the better off women's equal (at least as far as appearance is concerned), if only given the money to take care of herself

    Henry Higgins

    THE NOTE TAKER. You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party. I could even get her a place as lady's maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. That's the sort of thing I do for commercial millionaires. And on the profits of it I do genuine scientific work in phonetics, and a little as a poet on Miltonic lines. (1.129)

    Higgins suggests that being a maid or a shop assistant requires better English than being an aristocrat. Is he joking? Perhaps a little.

    Act 2
    Mr. Alfred Doolittle

    DOOLITTLE. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I'm playing straight with you. I ain't pretending to be deserving. I'm undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that's the truth. Will you take advantage of a man's nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he's brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she's growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you. (2.273)

    Doolittle thinks of himself as a different species of poor person; his comments make it clear that there is more to society than an upper, middle, and lower class. There are, it seems, many different classes within each group.

    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA. I had a good mind to break it. I didn't know which way to look. But I hung a towel over it, I did.
    HIGGINS. Over what?
    MRS. PEARCE. Over the looking-glass, sir.
    HIGGINS. Doolittle: you have brought your daughter up too strictly.
    DOOLITTLE. Me! I never brought her up at all, except to give her a lick of a strap now and again. Don't put it on me, Governor. She ain't accustomed to it, you see: that's all. But she'll soon pick up your free-and-easy ways.
    LIZA. I'm a good girl, I am; and I won't pick up no free and easy ways. (2.308-313)

    Doolittle equates wealth with laziness and wastefulness, and Eliza's own poverty seems to have instilled in her a sense of modesty. She will not so much as look in the mirror.

    LIZA. I tell you, it's easy to clean up here. Hot and cold water on tap, just as much as you like, there is. Woolly towels, there is; and a towel horse so hot, it burns your fingers. Soft brushes to scrub yourself, and a wooden bowl of soap smelling like primroses. Now I know why ladies is so clean. Washing's a treat for them. Wish they saw what it is for the like of me! (2.303)

    It is interesting that we get to see a poor girl experience the comforts of wealth, but we never get to see a wealthier person "see what it's like" for Eliza.

    Act 3
    Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill

    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

    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.

    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. and Miss Eynsford Hill are the mother and daughter who sheltered from the rain in Covent Garden. The mother is well bred, quiet, and has the habitual anxiety of straitened means. The daughter has acquired a gay air of being very much at home in society: the bravado of genteel poverty. (3.43)

    Just as Doolittle occupies his own position within the lower class, Shaw tells us that the Eynsford Hills are part of what might be called the "genteel poor." They are, it would seem, much closer to Mrs. Higgins's level of wealth than to Eliza's, but they are nonetheless in a less than desirable position.

    Act 5
    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. 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. (5.197)

    Higgins claims that the key to acting correctly is treating all people in the same way, acting as if class distinctions did not exist. He thinks that the only society that matters is the society of human souls, to which all men belong.

  • Appearance

    Act 1

    [[Eliza] is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist]. (1.29)

    Shaw tells us that she "is not at all an attractive person," but he contradicts himself in the next act. In this case, mere physical appearance, dirtiness, and neglect destroy any kind of physical appeal.

    Act 2

    Alfred Doolittle 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. He has well marked and rather interesting features, and seems equally free from fear and conscience. He has a remarkably expressive voice, the result of a habit of giving vent to his feelings without reserve. His present pose is that of wounded honor and stern resolution. (2.211)

    Doolittle's clothing clashes with his other attributes: his facial features, his demeanor, and his voice. He is dressed like a dustman, but Shaw tells us that he is not the kind of person we might expect.

    The flower girl enters in state. She has a hat with three ostrich feathers, orange, sky-blue, and red. She has a nearly clean apron, and the shoddy coat has been tidied a little. The pathos of this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air, touches Pickering, who has already straightened himself in the presence of Mrs. Pearce. (2.21)

    Even before she is taught to speak and talk correctly, Eliza has some ideas about cleanliness, self-image, and respectability. She is simply unable to meet any of the usual standards.

    Eliza Doolittle

    [[Doolittle] hurries to the door, anxious to get away with his booty. When he opens it he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady in a simple blue cotton kimono printed cunningly with small white jasmine blossoms. Mrs. Pearce is with her. He gets out of her way deferentially and apologizes]. Beg pardon, miss.
    THE JAPANESE LADY. Garn! Don't you know your own daughter? (2.289-290)

    Just as with the upstarts Higgins mentions (see 1.120), all it takes is a single word to disrupt an extremely powerful illusion.

    Mrs. Pearce

    MRS. PEARCE. Yes, sir. Then might I ask you not to come down to breakfast in your dressing-gown, or at any rate not to use it as a napkin to the extent you do, sir. And if you would be so good as not to eat everything off the same plate, and to remember not to put the porridge saucepan out of your hand on the clean tablecloth, it would be a better example to the girl. You know you nearly choked yourself with a fishbone in the jam only last week. (2.188)

    Mrs. Pearce has strong views on the potential harmfulness of what might be called bad behavior. As she sees it, Higgins must look and act respectable if he expects Eliza to change for the better.

    Act 3

    There is a portrait of Mrs. Higgins as she was when she defied fashion in her youth in one of the beautiful Rossettian costumes which, when caricatured by people who did not understand, led to the absurdities of popular estheticism in the eighteen-seventies.
    In the corner diagonally opposite the door Mrs. Higgins, now over sixty and long past taking the trouble to dress out of the fashion, sits writing at an elegantly simple writing-table with a bell button within reach of her hand. (3.3-4)

    Mrs. Higgins's graceful beauty and her ability to define herself against fashion suggest that she is very comfortable with herself, that she knows, deep down, who she is.

    Eliza, who is exquisitely dressed, produces an impression of such remarkable distinction and beauty as she enters that they all rise, quite flustered. Guided by Higgins's signals, she comes to Mrs. Higgins with studied grace. (3.91)

    Eliza, first described as "not at all attractive," has become incredibly desirable thanks to some nice clothing, jewelry, and a few months of training. Appearance is a changeable, and powerful, thing.

    Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill are the mother and daughter who sheltered from the rain in Covent Garden. The mother is well bred, quiet, and has the habitual anxiety of straitened means. The daughter has acquired a gay air of being very much at home in society: the bravado of genteel poverty. (3.43)

    Though Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill are both subject to the same kind of "genteel poverty," each expresses their condition in a different way, perhaps because of the difference in age.

    Act 4

    Eliza smiles for the first time; expresses her feelings by a wild pantomime in which an imitation of Higgins's exit is confused with her own triumph; and finally goes down on her knees on the hearthrug to look for the ring. (4.93)

    After spending so much time learning to express herself correctly with words, it seems ironic that her first "triumph" is signaled with nothing more than expressions.

    Eliza opens the door and is seen on the lighted landing in opera cloak, brilliant evening dress, and diamonds, with fan, flowers, and all accessories. She comes to the hearth, and switches on the electric lights there. She is tired: her pallor contrasts strongly with her dark eyes and hair; and her expression is almost tragic. (4.1)

    The contrast between Eliza's clothing and her face, between their elegance and her sadness, recalls the disconnect between Eliza's magnificent skills and her opportunities to employ them.

  • Manipulation

    Act 2
    Colonel Pickering

    PICKERING. Higgins: I'm interested. What about the ambassador's garden party? I'll say you're the greatest teacher alive if you make that good. I'll bet you all the expenses of the experiment you can't do it. And I'll pay for the lessons.
    LIZA. Oh, you are real good. Thank you, Captain.
    HIGGINS [tempted, looking at her] It's almost irresistible. She's so deliciously low—so horribly dirty—
    LIZA [protesting extremely] Ah—ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oooo!!! I ain't dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did. (2.76-9)

    Higgins's motives for helping Eliza do not seem to spring from compassion, but the skills he agrees to teach her are certainly intended to help her prosper.

    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS. Listen, Eliza. I think you said you came in a taxi.
    LIZA. Well, what if I did? I've as good a right to take a taxi as anyone else.
    HIGGINS. You have, Eliza; and in future you shall have as many taxis as you want. You shall go up and down and round the town in a taxi every day. Think of that, Eliza. (2.140-142)

    Higgins takes a strange pleasure in tempting Eliza, as if he is scared she will run away. It seems as though he may be attached to her long before he pleads for her to stay at Wimpole Street.

    HIGGINS [storming on] Take all her clothes off and burn them. Ring up Whiteley or somebody for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they come. (2.86)

    Higgins is so quickly wrapped up (pun not intended) in his project, that he immediately starts to treat her as an object, raw material for his designs.

    HIGGINS. [After listening to Doolittle] Pickering: if we listen to this man another minute, we shall have no convictions left. (2.284)

    Higgins, himself an expert in language, acknowledges the (sometimes dangerous) power of language and rhetoric.

    Mrs. Pearce

    MRS. PEARCE [patiently] I think you'd better let me speak to the girl properly in private. I don't know that I can take charge of her or consent to the arrangement at all. Of course I know you don't mean her any harm; but when you get what you call interested in people's accents, you never think or care what may happen to them or you. Come with me, Eliza. (2.152)

    On the other hand, Mrs. Pearce suggests that, under certain circumstances, Higgins's manipulation is inadvertent, and that he is even capable of losing control, of manipulating himself.

    Act 3
    Mrs. Higgins

    MRS. HIGGINS. You silly boy, of course she's not presentable. She's a triumph of your art and of her dressmaker's; but if you suppose for a moment that she doesn't give herself away in every sentence she utters, you must be perfectly cracked about her. (3.203)

    Mrs. Higgins, like Mrs. Pearce, seems to agree that Higgins can get carried where his "art" is concerned. He seems unable to acknowledge how artificial Eliza's behavior is.

    Henry Higgins

    HIGGINS [to Pickering as they go out together] Let's take her to the Shakespear exhibition at Earls Court.
    PICKERING. Yes: let's. Her remarks will be delicious.
    HIGGINS. She'll mimic all the people for us when we get home. (3.262-264)

    Often, Higgins and Pickering do not seem to treat her like a human being. Her remarkable abilities are simply a source of entertainment for them.

    Act 5
    Colonel Pickering

    PICKERING [stretching himself] Well, I feel a bit tired. It's been a long day. The garden party, a dinner party, and the opera! Rather too much of a good thing. But you've won your bet, Higgins. Eliza did the trick, and something to spare, eh? (5.8)

    Trick, indeed. Higgins and Pickering talk about Eliza as if she were a pet, a performing animal.

    Eliza Doolittle

    LIZA. Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can't take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you. And I can be civil and kind to people, which is more than you can. Aha! That's done you, Henry Higgins, it has. Now I don't care that [snapping her fingers] for your bullying and your big talk. I'll advertize it in the papers that your duchess is only a flower girl that you taught, and that she'll teach anybody to be a duchess just the same in six months for a thousand guineas. Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself. (5.262)

    By the end, Eliza seems to have learned a thing or two about manipulation and control from her teacher. Still, when she turns the tables, he tries to turn them right back.

    LIZA. Oh! if I only COULD go back to my flower basket! I should be independent of both you and father and all the world! Why did you take my independence from me? Why did I give it up? I'm a slave now, for all my fine clothes. (5.231)

    Eliza is not, of course, literally enslaved. And Higgins has no intention of chaining her up. Her training, however, makes her unable to go back to her old ways. She is no longer being manipulated actively; rather, the effects of the manipulation are unshakeable.