“Pygmalion” is a well known play that satirizes manners and class in Victorian England.
The main characters, Professor Henry Higgins and flower girl Eliza Doolittle are as different as night and day.Higgins is a successful linguist and member of the upper class, while Doolittle is a common flower girl who sells her flowers on the streets of London.Higgins observes her and makes notes on her appalling accent, then invites her into his home to study her further.His friend, Pickering, is down to earth and interested in Eliza, and so he proposes a bet, where Higgins takes Eliza into his home for six months, and turns her into a “lady.”Pickering and Eliza grow quite fond of each other, but in the end, Eliza learns enough to strike out on her own, and while she marries Freddy, she always retains her independence and her frank appraisal of others. Higgins is wealthy and eccentric.
He is a member of the upper class, but he is absent minded, childlike, and lacks many of the social graces that “gentlemen” are so proud of.He does have enough sociability to get along in society, but Shaw describes him as a “baby.”He writes, “He is, in fact, but for his years and size, rather like a very impetuous baby ‘taking notice’ eagerly and loudly, and requiring almost as much watching to keep him out of unintended mischief” (Shaw 128).Eliza, on the other hand, may speak like a “guttersnipe,” and have the manners of the low class, but she is all woman, and speaks her mind freely.
At one point, in front of a group of society people, she states, “You see, it’s like this. If a man has a bit of a conscience, it always takes him when he’s sober; and then it makes him low-spirited.A drop of booze just takes that off and makes him happy: (Shaw 166).She can be taught manners and decorum, but she does not have to be taught how to tell the difference between a pompous professor and a g..