A Class Act

         In the 1913 George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, and the 1938 film Pygmalion, based on the play and directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, it was pretty apparent to me that there is a disparity in the class system of our world. The two main characters: Henry Higgins, played by Leslie Howard; and Eliza Doolittle, played by Wendy Hiller, display a conflict between one another. The upper class treats the lower class like crap.

         Eliza, a poor flower girl when we first meet her, meets Higgins and eventually we see her changed into a woman who seems to be a member of the upper class, even possibly mistaken for a princess. However, it was during this period of time of transition for Eliza that we find out just what kind of person Henry Higgins is. He basically treats her with little or no respect and says if it were not for him, she would be a "gutter rat." He claims he will throw her back into the realm of poverty once she is done with the training, which really displays Higgins' inconsideration because he is basically just using her.

         Near the end of the story, we see Eliza pass as a princess at an embassy ball for the Queen of Transylvania. Eliza does everything she has been instructed to do--dress well, speak well and behave as if she really were a member of the upper class. Somehow through all of this, Higgins comes to terms with his real feelings for Eliza. He really cares for her, but it is too late. This story, through the film and the play, is a pretty accurate representation of the way upper classes and lower classes interact with each other. The real message in the story, well at least to me is, that no matter how high regard is held for the class one represents, one is no better as a human being than someone from a different class. This was evidenced as Eliza transcended Higgins' condescending attitude and turned the game around on him. She was definitely a class act.

Jason Kemp

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