Pygmalion In this day of repressive, unsavory humanity, where the young idolize the lower classes, while the politically correct look down upon the elite, every household should have a copy of this timeless tale. Although many scorn the elite, it is they who preside over society. This book is as entertaining as it is provocative. Often these two qualities do not harmonize, but in Pygmalion they are conjugal. With its inclusion of religious issues, gender issues, social issues, family issues, and other essential issues, Pygmalion is indeed a masterpiece. The way the author exemplifies how poorly the “lower class” are treated is poignant.
Since it is her speech and common manner that presents Liza as “lower class”, when Higgins offers to help her in this area, it is unquestionably an enchanting proposal to her. At first, owed to Higgins relentless approach upon their first encounter on Wimpole Street, Liza is reluctant to accept his offer. Treatment of this sort would certainly give rise to doubt by any individual. Higgins is essentially an overgrown, socially maladjusted adolescent with an intermittent dash of brilliance; he’s not charming at all. I find pompously righteous characters like Higgins to add character to any story. Nonetheless, her inspiration, to possibly be passed as a duchess at the upcoming Embassy Ball, prompts Liza to accept; or maybe it is just a path out of the streets for her.
In any case, as Shaw often puts it “Speech is the decipher of classes, not birth or position.” Shaw’s insinuation that anyone can ascend to the upper levels of society by putting on a new accent and nice clothes is brilliant. Lizas transformation from”guttersnipe” to refined society girl lends hope to the common lower class community. I found her parlor “audition” with Mrs. Higgins to be highly amusing. Indeed I would not want to find myself in that predicament, yet graceful, dignified Mrs.
Higgins takes a liking to her just the same. The associated scene at the racetrack in “My Fair Lady” is humorous as well. To see the embarrassment in Higgins face, as Liza coaxes the horses on, is priceless. Throughout the story, the reader appreciates the disposition of Colonel Pickering. This fellow linguist of Higgins is portrayed as his antithesis; a gentle man cordial enough to treat a common flower girl as a human, not just a mere venture.
Peculiar, however, is the fact that the personalities of these two men are agreeable, and the two seem to readily affiliate with one another. Doolittle presents us with a sort of in-between character. His manner is further refined than that of his daughter, yet he still lacks the polished or distinguished personas of Higgins and Pickering. From his initial introduction in the story, it is rather difficult to take a liking to his character. It is apparent that he cares very little about the welfare of his own daughter.
He is more interested in obtaining a little compensation for lending her to Higgins. However, when Higgins turns the tables and tries to give her back, he changes his tune a bit. In the movie, though, I was more partial to his character. His silly-hearted demeanor was enjoyable to witness. In the end, to imagine the epitome of his anguish dealing with upheaval to a wealthy life is a bit comical, poor soul. As the story progresses, the relationship between Higgins and Liza gradually takes on new structure.
As Liza advances in her self-confidence and realizes that this man treats everyone with indifferent contempt, Higgins seems to greater appreciate her existence. He more or less welcomes her retorts. Much of the humor incorporated in this story revolves around the squabbles between these two characters. At times, I felt persuaded to believe that they would end up marrying. Higgins mockery of Freddy was certainly an indication of this. He is seemingly jealous when Liza takes an interest in Freddy.
I would not have come to this conclusion had I initially watched the movie. This may be related, in part, to the appearance of Mr. Higgins. I am well aware that my inference is shallow, but the beauty of Liza far surpasses that of Higgins. The underlying query right through the story is”will she or won’t she pass the final test of society?” However, “what will happen to her after” is also profoundly significant in the mind of Liza, as well as in the mind of the reader. I was astonished when Liza chooses to leave the comforts offered to her by Higgins and Pickering. This, in fact, is a remarkable display of her newfound confidence.
For her to go out into the world alone, rather than offer Higgins the satisfaction of her dependence on him, is commendable. Her return to Wimpole Street in the movie was, therefore, a little disappointing to me. In short, Pygmalion is a one of a kind story that deserves a place of honor on every bookshelf. It expresses how something as simple as a person’s accent can determine his or her social status and economic opportunities. The concluding argument, between compassion (Liza) and logic (Higgins) in human relations, suits the story entirely.