A Portrait of Arrogance

        In the 1964 musical My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor and based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, we find Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, to be a very arrogant and self-assured man. Eliza Doolittle, depicted by Audrey Hepburn, will do anything in order to better her life. In the musical we watch as Henry Higgins proclaims that he can tell anyone where he or she is from and even teach him or her to speak better.

        Originally, Eliza Doolittle had made a living selling flowers on the streets of London. It was not a good living, but she did not starve. Her father was a drunk who frittered away his money on the next drink. Eliza wanted more from her life and dreamed of owning a flower shop someday. In order to do this, she needed a little more education.

        Henry Higgins takes Eliza Doolittle and bullies her into changing the way she speaks. He teaches her to speak English better than the most refined people in the upper classes in England. He also changes the way she dresses and the way she comports herself. In the end Henry Higgins has completely reinvented Eliza. However, Henry Higgins does not think of Eliza and what she will do when he is finished with her.

        She is virtually unemployable because she is so well spoken that everyone believes that she is one of the gentry. Freddy Enysford-Hill (Jeremy Brett), the man who loves her, is no longer suitable for her because of how much she has changed. She is not a suitable wife for the gentry because her bloodlines are not good enough. So we essentially have a woman whose life is in limbo. She can go neither up nor down in society. Henry in all of his selfishness has recreated her into someone that is little more than a spectacle for others but is not truly suitable for anything. His arrogance as well as his need to excel have ruined Eliza’s life and left her a mere shell of a life.

Heather Tromble

Table of Contents