During the time of the play, Pygmalion, classes in England were
seemingly artificial. It is shown very well in Act III during one of Mrs.
Higgins’s at-home days the differences between classes. Mrs. and
Miss Eynsford Hill claim to be of the upper class and they act as if
they are in the upper class to try and impress Henry Higgins during
Eliza Doolittle is being tutored by Henry Higgins, a professor of
phonetics, to speak clearly and correctly; to change from her old
flower girl way to a lady of class. Having not been eduacated fairly
well and not having learned this “new” language quite well a remark
from Freddy Eynford Hill sends her back into her old ways.
At the being of the conversation, in Act III, Eliza is speaking
with pedantic correctness of pronunciation and great beauty of tone.
“How do you do, Mrs. Higgins?[she gasps slightly in making sure of
the H in Higgins]....” Eliza starts to go off and loses control of her
emotions later on during the conversation when she misconstrues
the remark of Freddy Eynsford Hill. She starts to get like her old
flower girl self and gets so comfortable that she doesn’t even realize
it. Henry jumps into the conversation and stops her and she finally
realizes what happens. The Eynsford Hills still seem a little bit
puzzled because they have never heard a person of such “high class”
speak in such a manner.
Henry goes on to explain that she is just talking the new small
talk and that everybody who is anybody is doing it. The Eynsford
Hills being the rocket scientist that they are don’t realize that Higgins
is not telling them the truth about Eliza and who she really is. They
want to be accepted so much by him and his upper class
they believe him and start talking in the same way. On the way out
the door Clara imitates the silly nonsense and laughs as she says
Alfred Doolittle is another character in the play that doesn’t
really show a class distinction. When you first see Alfred in Act II he
is a trash man. “He 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,” states Shaw (the author of Pygmalion
While his clothing and his appearance are disapproving, his
language of persuasion is very appealing. Higgins is surprised by the
way that Doolittle speaks and becomes somewhat interesting. He
says to Pickering, “if we were to take this man (Doolittle) in hand for
three months, he could choose between a seat in the Cabinet and a
popular pulpit in Wales.” As you can see, Higgins believes that even
though Alfred Doolittle is of the lower class he could be transformed
into a member of the so-called upper class in just a short time.
The class distinctions in the play are evident but you can see
that people can behave differently in different situations when under
stress; or just people behaving the way they do regardless of class,
money, or position in society.