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Subject Pygmalion
Posted by Dana
Posted on Tue Jan 12 01:03:58 1999
From IP dana.sedorm.fju.edu.tw  

A flower girl who tried to climb up from the lower class, a childish professor who did things impulsively and was unable to deal with human relationship, when these two bumped into each other, an ironic and sad story started.

In this play "Pygmalion" we see how differently the different classes valued things, and how money played its important role in the upper class. While Eliza thought that money was given away to get something back, Higgins thought it as the relative term. (Act2) And for a lady (represented by Clara), the only way to get money was through "hunting a wealthy husband".

At first when Eliza went to Higgins and asked him to teach her better English, her intention was simple-- to be like a lady, and to speak proper English so that she could work in the flower shop. But through the process of training, Eliza experienced the "clash" of different classes for many times, and at the end she became more than a lady. She changed into someone more than Higgins had imagined. After she's able to pronounce well, Higgins took her to Mrs. Higgins' to test if the training was successful. At that time Eliza was not a real lady yet. Although she could speak standard English, she didn't know to talk with proper topics. She had no idea about limitations of conversations in the upper class. Talking about death isn't appropriate, of course. Then when she participated in the garden party, she completely succeeded. It was a "great triumph", as what Higgins and Pickering considered. However, Eliza realized the problems she was going to face. "I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made me a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else. I wish you'd left me where you found me." She couldn't find her "place". But who would ever though of it? What she had been longing to be was actually the upper class lady with limitations. As presented by Clara in this play, she couldn't talk about personal or real feelings in conversations; she had to find the money source, either by inheriting or by marrying a rich man, for ladies in upper class were not allowed to go out of the house and earn money by themselves. And this was what Eliza wanted to be.

However, no matter what Eliza felt, she could not get any concern from Higgins. All that he cared about was people's accents. The way he valued a person was whether his/her language would be useful for him or not. He took Eliza as his student was because of the bet. He made the decision without much consideration. That's why in Act 4 when Eliza was so depressed, he couldn't understand the reason at all. "Thank God it's over." "It was a silly notion: the whole thing has been a bore." To him the training had end after the garden party. He could just leave it and go back to his job. But what about Eliza? <"How the devil do I know what's to become of you? What's to become of me?" "You don't care. I know you don't care. You wouldn't care if I was dead. I'm nothing to you-- not so much as them slippers."> It seems that no matter how hard Eliza tried to be a lady, Higgins always thought of her as a flower girl, and always called her "creature", "insect", "squashed cabbage", etc. And when later in Act 5 Eliza pushed him to acknowledge the equal relationship between them and even his affection toward her, he just kept refusing to commit it. He's unable to deal with the human relationship.

Compared with Higgins, Pickering was obviously more humane. Eliza even thought that it's not Higgins but Pickering who taught her to be a lady. "But it was from you that I learnt really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isn't it?"

"The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will."

In Act 5 Eliza and Higgins kept playing the game of words, to and fro. Eliza kept pushing Higgins to get a commitment, and Higgins kept hiding, although he did kind of care about Eliza. "I shall miss you, Eliza." "I can't turn you soul on. Leave me thouse feelings; and you can take away the voice and the face. They are not you." But still he insisted on the way he treated Eliza, even though what Eliza wanted was actually just his kindness and respect. Higgins stuck on his statement: "If you can't stand the coldness of my sort of life, and the strain of it, go back to the gutter."

During the to and fro conversation, both Eliza and Higgins learned and understand more about each other. But would they be together or would Eliza leave him and marry Freddy as she said? The Act 5 leave us a chance to imagine.

In the Mythology story "Pygmalion", Pygmalion and his creation Galatea lived happily ever after. But would it be as simple as the story when it comes to reality? Higgins successfully transformed Eliza into a lady; she 's even more than a lady. However, he didn't think much about the consequence. Where should he put Eliza after the training? What's to become of her? I think the ending might not always be happy after all.


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