The play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw is a more open to interpretation version of a typical romance play. Probably the biggest thing that sets Pygmalion aside from other plays of its time is its non conclusive ending. Unlike the typical or “cheesy” play known as the Well-made Play, Pygmalion ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, except there is no sequel – and there need not be one. Pygmalion ends with a fight between Eliza Doolittle, one of the main characters, who was a poor flower girl that was transformed into a duchess by Henry Higgins, and Higgins himself. In typical Well-made Play fashion, this play would have ended much more pleasantly. Because the whole play revolves around Higgins teaching Eliza to become a “lady”, and because the play is based around the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, it would be expected that Higgins turns Eliza into his ideal wife, and they get married and live happily ever after. However, this is not the case. Although the ending is left to interpretation, Shaw himself concludes in the epilogue of the play that Eliza and Higgins would never marry, and Eliza instead marries Freddy, a side character from earlier in the play. This may seem like an unsatisfying ending for some, but I however think it raises questions – like what happens to Eliza and Higgins, and how does the “new Eliza” fit into her new social class? Is she accepted? Because of this is more interesting than if the play had ended with Higgins and Eliza marrying like expected.
The hate Eliza developed for Higgins can be seen throughout the play. From the beginning when Higgins called her by “Eliza” whereas Pickering (Higgins’s partner with Eliza’s teaching) referred to her as “Ms. Doolittle”. The difference that is explained at the end of the book for the reason that Eliza dislikes Higgins and not so much Pickering can be summed up to this quote:
Liza: “That’s not true. [Pickering] treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess.”
Higgins: “And I treat a duchess as if she were a flower girl.”
This contrast between how Pickering and Higgins respect others plays a big role in why Eliza came to despise Higgins.
Although I would have liked Higgins and Eliza to get along in the end, the surprising ending of the big fight was more intriguing and leaves room for the mind to guess what happens next. Of course Shaw comes in during the epilogue clearing some parts of the story up, but having this room to let your mind decide what happens next is one reason why this play was enjoyable to read. Instead of being left with a dry, expected ending, or even a sad one, the reader is left to decide what becomes of Eliza and Higgins. I personally would like to think that Eliza opens up her flower shop and that Higgins and her still eventually have some contact with each other, even whether that means Higgins seeing her in her flower shop.
Overall the play was interesting and not very predictable which made it exciting to read. The occasional witty humour was enjoyable, and so was watching the development of characters, especially Eliza.