The Best Thing to Ever Happen to Eliza Doolittle

         George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion (1913) is the tale of Eliza Doolittle, a young, common flower girl given the opportunity to change her life by being transformed into a sophisticated lady with endless possibilities. Eliza's great opportunity was presented to by a chance encounter with Professor Henry Higgins. Little did Eliza know that meeting Professor Higgins would be the best thing to ever happen to her.

         We see Eliza's journey to "higher society" in the 1938 film Pygmalion (directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard). Professor Higgins (Leslie Howard) proclaims that he is so skilled at phonetics that he could even teach the common flower girl to speak properly and be passed off as a duchess. This proclamation catches Eliza's (Wendy Hiller) attention, and she takes him up on his offer. After six months of studying, practicing, and hard work, Eliza is ready for the test. After successfully passing her off as a princess, no less, Professor Higgins enjoys his victory and tosses Eliza aside. This, of course, upsets Eliza; and she decides to leave because, if Professor Higgins does not need her, then she certainly does not need him.

         In attempts to rationalize with Eliza, Professor Higgins finds her at his mother's residence; and the two of them have an argument over each other's thoughts and actions. During this argument, viewers learn exactly how fond of Eliza Professor Higgins has become, and he admits to valuing their friendship. However, Eliza has become less dependent on Higgins after realizing she was nothing more than an instrument to him and is determined to leave and start her own life without Professor Higgins. Professor Higgins respects her decision and lets her go.

         The very end of the film, though, shows Eliza returning to Professor Higgins. She realized Higgins does value and respect her; he just does not always show it. Professor Higgins is the best thing that has ever happened to Eliza; she should not turn her back on that. It is only right that Eliza return to Professor Higgins because it is the genuine friendship between the two that will last and help Eliza maintain her success.

Jessica Warren

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