Freddy or Higgins?

         In George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, which was later adapted into the 1956 musical called My Fair Lady, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and then adapted into the 1964 movie musical also entitled My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, the main character, Eliza (Wendy Hiller in Pygmalion, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady) was left with a choice between two men. Her choices were Freddy Eynsford-Hill (David Tree in Pygmalion, Jeremy Brett in My Fair Lady), and Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard in Pygmalion, Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady). In Pygmalion, Eliza left Higgins; and it was implied by Higgins that she was going to marry Freddy. In both versions of My Fair Lady, she returned to Higgins after leaving him, giving the audience the idea that she was going to stay with him. After reading the two versions of the play and watching the movies, I was left wondering, "Whom do I believe that Eliza should have ended up with?"

         Both men had qualities that made him a good match for Eliza; but, at the same time, both had qualities that made them a terrible match. Freddy's good qualities were that he could give Eliza the love that she needed. He fell in love with her at first sight; he wrote her love letters and visited her persistently even though he was turned down every time. He seemed to be a hopeless romantic, and it can be said that he honestly loved Eliza. However, love seemed to be one of the only things that made him a good match for Eliza. He could not take care of her; he was a spoiled rich boy who had no notion of what it was to work and take care of one's self. She would have had to take care of him and work for him for the rest of her life. He was a simpering "mama's-boy" with no amount of spine in him whatsoever. Eliza had a lot of spirit; and she would probably have desired the same from her companion, something Freddy could not offer her. He also probably could not have offered her a large amount of intelligent conversation because he seemed incapable of it. Eliza was a very intelligent woman and would probably have come to desire a good, intelligent conversation every now and then. Freddy also would not have provided the greatest mother-in-law for Eliza. His mother was of the same rich and spoiled breed as Freddy was and would probably have proved to be the same type of bore as he was. Lastly, Freddy had no idea where Eliza had come from. He did not have any idea that she had been a flower girl, dirty and badly spoken. She would have to keep up her ruse for the rest of her life if she wanted to be with Freddy.

         Higgins's good qualities were that he did have the same spirit that Eliza had. He was just as feisty, and he would not have let her win the argument every time. He could have provided her with intelligent conversation all day if she so desired. He did have the means to take care of her, and she would not have had to work for it for the rest of her life. He would also have provided her with a very pleasant mother-in-law, one who could probably have provided an amount of companionship. Most importantly, he knew exactly where she had come from because he helped her rise above her past. She would not have had to pretend in front of him. On the other hand, Higgins would not have provided Eliza with any love. He might have provided her with the occasional familiar affection, but not love, because love was not what he was interested in. He would probably have been what some might consider verbally abusive in a way and never grateful for her. At the same time, Eliza was a girl who knew how to stand up for herself; and, if he had abused her, she would probably have abused him right back.

         If I had to choose one of those men for Eliza, I would choose Higgins. I can see Eliza having been much happier with a life containing no romance, but plenty of spirit, than a life full of romance, with a man who had less intelligence than a cabbage. In the end, however, it is my belief that Eliza should have left both men, and gone on to take care of herself. She could have opened up a flower shop as she had always wanted to, and she would not have had to worry about trying to be satisfied with a man that was not all good for her, but was not all bad either. In the end it was not Freddy; and it was not Higgins, it was Eliza, totally fabulous all on her own.

Adrienne Haley

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