Bernard Shaw’s comedy Pygmalion presents the unlikely journey of an impoverished flower girl into London’s society of the early 20th century. Professor Higgins proposes a wager to his friend Colonel Pickering that he can take a common peddler and transform her into royalty. Eliza Doolittle is the pawn in the wager. But little does Higgins know the change will go far beyond his expectations: Eliza transforms from a defensive insecure girl to a fully confident,strong, and independent woman. When the audience first meets Eliza Doolittle she is a flower girl peddling at 11 PM in front of St. Paul’s Church. The audience’s first impression is one of sympathy because she is dressed in rags and pedestrians are unkind to her. Higgins calls Eliza “you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language.” (p. 21) The audience’s sympathy is intensified when we see Eliza’s wretched lodgings. These lodgings are much contrasted to those of Higgins in Wimploe Street. Not only does Shaw play on the audience’s sympathy for an impoverished Eliza, but also presents her insecurity to us. In the scene with the taxi-man, she appears significantly defensive in her response concerning the cost of the cab ride. Eliza feels humiliated by the taxi-man’s sarcastic response to her.
From the start of Higgins and Eliza’s relationship, Eliza is treated like a child. Higgins says to her, “If your naughty and idle you will sleep in the back kitchen among the black beetles, and be walloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick.” (p. 36) Higgins treats her like this for months until the audience meets her again in London society. Eliza’s first test is at a luncheon given by Mrs. Higgins. Eliza, who is well dressed, makes a remarkable impression on the lunch guests. They are totally taken by her, especially by her confidence,...
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