Pygmalion Personal Response

In Pygmalion George Bernard Shaw presents ideas around social classes and gender using the characteristics of Eliza and Higgins. This is especially evident when it comes to Higgins being childish and Eliza being irritating.

Eliza Doolittle is presented as a low social class flower girl, annoying and asking higher class people for money. Shaw shows her as a person who completely violates the English language. Eliza annoys Higgins, for example when Higgins says “You have caused me to lose my temper: a thing that has hardly ever happened to me before.” (p.53). This quote lets us notice how Eliza has the ability to irritate Higgins, more than most people. Shaw uses Eliza’s character traits to develop readers’ perception of her as annoying and needy. Inturn Shaw develops a relationship between annoyance and low social classes and uses Eliza as a representation of the generalization of the ignorant and poor.

However, Eliza’s nuisance of a character could be related to the way Higgins and Pickering treat her. Since Higgins and Pickering met Eliza, they acted child-like, by making a bet in regards to Eliza’s improvement in language and manners. It’s even pointed out when Mrs. Higgins says “You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll”. This shows how normal men played with women like they were dolls in the early 1900s.

Shaw’s use of characterization shows how annoying Eliza Doolittle is, and how childlike Higgins and Pickering are. There are likely many reasons why her character is irritating. Possibly the way she’s treated by society, for being a young, lower-class woman with a loud voice and a disgusting impossible-to-understand accent has resulted in her annoying character. Or rather is the perception of her character as annoying caused by these factors. Shaw raises awareness of our own personal biases of character perceptions. Similarly, Higgins and Pickering manipulate a poor young woman, changing her future for a childish bet. This represents the little care men have for woman’s lives.