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Changes in Eliza in Pygmalion



Before Eliza first encountered Mr. Higgins, she was simply a dirty, yet caring girl in the gutter of London. During her time with both Mr. Higgins and Colonel Pickering, Eliza did change, for the fist few weeks of her stay in Wimpole Street, she questioned everything that Higgins asked her to do, and generally couldn't see how they would help her. Later, Eliza begins to understand that Higgins, as harsh as he is, is trying to do his best to teach her, and therefore should be respected. After the ambassador's ball, we see more of the old Eliza resurfacing. She starts to worry again, and since she has grown attached to Higgins and Pickering, is devastated to see their finding her so trivial. Eliza's basic character remains relatively unchanged. We can still observe the old Eliza, under the upper-class persona. The play, "Pygmalion" brings out the message that looks can be extremely deceiving, while touching on the issue that self presentation really does change the way people look at you.


Act I of the play first introduces the reader to the rich of London. The author, Bernard Shaw, uses these well moneyed citizens to display the contrast between them and Eliza. In this act, Eliza has yet to be introduced to the world of the rich, and is portrayed by Shaw as in innocent dreamer. Eliza is concerned for her own safety, in making sure that it was know that she only wanted to sell a flower to the gentleman. She is persistent in a kind way; the reader sees this when she tries eagerly to sell to the gentleman without change. It becomes apparent that she is very poor, and needs success from her flower selling to live a life at all. Eliza shows great pride in her line of work, and that she stays above the law, not resorting to illegal prostitution or stealing. The introduction of Higgins taking down Eliza's speech gives the author a further chance to display Eliza's will to stay innocent and good. Another way that Shaw shows us the real Eliza is in the way that she starts crawling over the dirty ground to locate the money thrown down at her by Higgins. The way that Eliza is so very grateful indicates her real kindness and simple mission to live any sort of life. She now realizes that she can ask Mr. Higgins to help her fulfill her dream and become a lady in a flower shop: an occupation for which she is not visually or phonetically suited.


In Higgins's study at the start of act II, Eliza feels that she has to impress Higgins by making sure he knows that she arrived in a taxi. Eliza doesn't understand the way that Mr. Higgins treats people, she thinks, as would any normal person, that he is being particularly mean to her specifically. She quite rightly gets very upset when Henry Higgins rambles on about her money, and wanting to throw the "baggage" out of the window. Eliza shows little emotion towards the wager set by Pickering; she merely thanks him for offering to pay for the lessons. During her lessons, Eliza is worked to such an extent that she comes to resent Higgins more than a student should a teacher. Her hatred towards the man soon lightens as she realizes that she can only accomplish her dream of working as a lady in a flower shop Higgins can shape her into a lady. Higgins made Eliza more aggressive in the way that he treated her. She was very good at bottling up her anger towards him, she tried to put it away and saw Higgins as a good friend. She didn't realize that Higgins took pride in his challenge, not in his student. Or that Higgins saw her only as a student, nothing more. Pickering, on the other hand, does show respect to Eliza, as he would anyone. Eliza says later that it was Pickering that allowed her to be a lady, teaching her through example how to be well mannered.


For Higgins and Pickering the ambassador's ball was a great success. Eliza, on the other hand, had fulfilled her purpose as far a Higgins was concerned. She was merely a tool used to enhance Higgins reputation in society. Having shown absolutely no appreciation towards Eliza, Higgins kept boasting about his success, and failed to acknowledge Eliza, besides the one time he did, which was simply to make clear that it was not Eliza the won his bet, but it was himself. Eliza is shattered upon hearing this. Higgins had drilled into Eliza that she was a lady, she would speak like a lady and also that she would act like a lady. What he had not realized, because he shows the same level of selfishness to everyone, was that he had slowly been making Eliza a stronger person, as illustrated by Shaw in Eliza's throwing the slippers at Higgins. Eliza finally stands up to Higgins and uses his own tactics against him.


Higgins did change Eliza. Originally she was a kind innocent girl trying to stay alive in the gutter of London. Higgins through the introduction to high-society had altered Eliza's way of thinking. It was good for Eliza to become stronger as she did. It was good that Mr. Higgins finally had something go wrong for him. Eliza was changed by her interactions with Higgins. Now at the end of the play, she becomes overpowering to Higgins, her beauty becomes murderous as Higgins realizes that she is leaving. It took the threat of Eliza leaving for him to see his true feelings towards her. He is portrayed to the end as an ignorant fool, when even after all is said and done; he still hides his feelings mocking Eliza for wanting Freddie.


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