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Student: Anca Tranca Faculty: Philology Department: English-German Professor: Felicia Burdescu

Pygmalion By George Bernard Shaw

Explore the interaction between Eliza and Higgins and Eliza and Pickering. What are the differences?
Pygmalion, written in 1912, is named after a Greek mythological sculptor with the same name, who falls in love with a feminine statue that he creates. The legend and Shaws play are related, since the story concerns a professor who bounds with his object of experiment. However, may one assert that the relationship between Eliza, the creation, and Higgins, the creator, is developed out of love? Does Higgins fall in love with the object of his creation? Does Eliza love her creator? At a closer analysis of the interaction between the three main characters of the work, Eliza, Higgins and Pickering, one may observe different attitudes and contradictory connections that are made. From the very beginning, the interaction between Eliza and Higgins is quite intense and explosive, so to say. Their relationship begins in a quite unpleasant manner. They have a bitter exchange of lines which summarizes their entire character. She is bold and independent, making a living of her own. She sees herself as a free woman with the same basic rights as any other living person who is earning the money honestly: I have the right to be here if I like, same as you. The Note Taker (Higgins), says such things that make Eliza feel little: A woman who utters such disgusting and depressing sounds has no right to be anywhere-no right to live.They both have well defined principles and a certain life experience that comes in contradiction. She knows well the power of money and thinks that her money is as good as any. She says in the first chapter: You wouldnt have the face to ask me the same [.]. Take it or leave it. Their interaction is based on hard words, confrontations, teasing and deception. Higgins considers himself above the others and thinks his superiority gives him the right to threat the rest of the humble, common people with a bitter sense of arrogance and disrespect. He characterizes Eliza more than once as a poor animal or as an object. He shows nothing but violent words, arrogance, superiority, embarrassment towards Eliza. On the other hand, the interaction with Pickering is quite different. He sees her as a woman, as a human being who deserves respect and

admiration. He addresses her with Miss Doolittle and behaves himself as a gentleman around her. He opens the door for her and makes her compliments. He encourages her during the learning process, being somehow her protector. Although he presents a certain excitement concerning the experiment and has no future plans for Eliza after transforming her, he cares for the girl and tries to make her feel comfortable, confident and proud. He offers her financial support. First out of a childish excitation for the bet and then out of concern. Being older as Higgins, one could assert that Pickering represents the father figure in the play. Although the father of Eliza is presented, the relationship between the two is not a father-daughter relationship. One could say that Elizas father is associated with Pickering. They both disrespect her and treat her like an object. They both use her for their own benefit. Eliza says that one would think that Higgins is her father. His response is Act I reveals the main features of the figures and prepares somehow the following action. There is no special connection between the flower girl, Higgins and Pickering and we dont know if they well meet again. The bet is yet not made, but the words are uttered. After insulting her with all sorts of adjectives, such as creature, Higgins gives her some money for the flowers and then they go on separate ways. Elizas reaction to that amount of money and the way in which she uses it comes in contradiction with her humble appearance. Perhaps that money makes her want more. Perhaps she has a noble material that needs to be processed. Higgins seems to see some potential in her, otherwise he wouldnt have accepted the challenge. Once the lections start, one can notice the different kind of interaction that Eliza has with Higgins, on the one hand, and with Pickering, on the other. Higgins yells at her, threatens her, treats her like an animal that can be trained on the success-reward principle. He doesnt care about her feelings, as long as the result is good. He trains her to perform a show. Pickering is gentle and courteous with her, he calls her my girl, he is careful with her feelings and dresses the wounds made by Higgins, who is very dominant. However, at some point in the story, Higgins feels proud of her success and is fascinated by her metamorphosis. Eliza begins to care for Higgins and Higgins realizes that he needs Eliza. Higgins thinks that a man and a woman cannot be together for a long time, because at some point, each one of them would want to follow a separate road. But out of love they make a compromise and take the same path, although this path is bad for both. So, he says, why bother to have any kind of relationship with any woman. Women upset everything, he says. So, he doesnt allow himself to have deep

feelings for anyone. He himself admits that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Eliza, however, succeeds in getting closer and closer to his inside. He needs her. Building on Shaws ideas, we can argue that both Higgins and Eliza are masters of, rather than slaves to, their passions. Higgins detaches his creative impulse from sexual desire, and Eliza maintains a sense of her own dignity and refuses to be dependent on Higgins.1 He is fond of Eliza involuntarily, but their relationship doesnt achieve any level of eroticism. Higgins is free of carnal and worldly desires. He likes her personality, but he is not in love with her. Both Higgins and Pickering feel and are responsible for Elizas behavior and future. Mrs. Higgins draws them the attention upon the new status of the girl. She says that if Eliza learns to act like a lady, she wont be able to do anything for living. At that moment, both seem to be unconcerned with her future. Even Pickering, who has protected her and carried for her, doesnt realize how changing Elizas way of speaking affects her entire future. The climax of the relationship of the three is presented in Act IV, where Elizas nerves break and has an intense conversation with Higgins. Returned from some party where Eliza behaved herself as a real lady, Pickering and Higgins talk about the evenings events and of Eliza as though she wasnt there. They both act in this scene as though she were a kind of performing monkey, a robot, a doll. Pickerings attention and respect towards her is influenced by the sweet taste of victory. They both admire the way in which Higgins was able to change her in such a short time, but no one congratulates Eliza for her quick, completed and exhausting changing. However, Eliza gets upset with Higgins, and not with Pickering. In Act V, she thanks her for all the help and the respect he has shown her. She thanks him for treating her like a lady from the very beginning. Returning to Act IV, Shaw presents an act of rebellion. Higgins indifference to her sincerity and devotion makes her rebel against him. This is the moment when Eliza crosses her doll-like projection.2In Act V, he tells her he like her like this, angry, powerful, secure. He tells her shes his equal now. The correlation with the myth of Pygmalion is brought to life in this piece of work. However, there is a significant difference between the myth and the play. As far as we know, Galatea, the feminine sculpture brought to life and created out of nothing, is a passive female

1 2

Sparknotes 101, Literature. 150 Plays and Novels. One Book, published by Daniel Weiss, New York, 2004, p. 699 S. Jain, Women in the Plays of George Bernard Shaw, New Delhi, 2006, p. 63

creation. Pygmalion has total control over her and can change her however it pleases him. Perhaps that is the main reason for which Galatea falls in love with her creator. But Eliza has a distinctive personality of her own. The influence of Higgins in her transformation is limited. He can change the way she speaks, but not the way she thinks or feels. She creates her own identity. That is why the relationship creator-creation develops different from the myth. They have certain feelings one for each other, but could one say that there is love between them? One could also say that their connection represents the conflict between head and heart. He is always rational, serious, arrogant, overbearing and doesnt allow himself to become emotional. She is sentimental and all heart. She listens to him and indulges him. She devotes herself to her creator in order to be a perfect creation. She becomes a superior type of slave, bringing him the slippers, shopping for him. But in the end we notice how two unconnected people can change each other. She becomes proud and serious, she tries not to let her feeling overwhelm her, while he presents a sense of sensibility and regret. He begins to respect women, and Eliza, he even has future plans including them three: Five minutes ago you were like a millstone round my neck. Now you're a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together." Her attitude towards Eliza is definitely changed. As time goes, they get used to each other, they become friends. Higgins may be a friend, a father, or even a lover for her, and Eliza may be a friend, a listener, a companion for him. Pickering is in this case the protector of the two. As a conclusion, we may say that the interaction between the two has its own role in the creation of Eliza. Pickering helps her financially and comforts her. However, While Higgins only teaches Eliza how to speak, Pickering teaches her how to respect herself through his own treatment. Pickering is a model of well educated, gentle, noble man for her. He helps her gain confidence in herself, which triggers her reaction in Act IV and V. Their interaction develops as a normal and decent interaction between a gentleman and a lady. It is based on respect and affection. On the other hand, the interaction with Higgins wounds Elizas feelings and makes her feel small and unimportant. Their connection could be qualified as strange and contradictory. They fight like two married people, still they dont admit their dependence on each other.

Bibliography
Sparknotes 101, Literature. 150 Plays and Novels. One Book, published by Daniel Weiss, New York, 2004, S. Jain, Women in the Plays of George Bernard Shaw, New Delhi, 2006, http://www.antiessays.com/free-essays/51609.html http://www.gymhbm.de/media/schule/faecher/englisch/projekt_pygmalion/shawpygmaleon/Relation_higginsEliza.html