Eliza's Happiness

         Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, shows us all how Eliza (Wendy Hiller), a flower-girl turned aristocrat, has benefitted and in some ways been diminished as a person. Eliza has more self respect after Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison), the linguistics professor, teaches her proper English, although her independence and happiness have diminished due to the way that Higgins has treated her.

         Eliza's self confidence has been improved since Higgins' lessons. Eliza realizes she is a beautiful woman. She carries herself with so much composure, which was taught to her by Higgins and Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland) but further built up by her own self confidence. Eliza actually is trying to fit in, like a normal person of the upper class. She has been trained so well by Higgins that she speaks like royalty even while trying not to. Eliza gains self respect towards the end of the book, but there are some things she has lost as well.

         Now, Eliza has lost much of her independence, and she cannot do many things on her own. She had only wanted to learn how to be a normal person, so that she could get a job at a flower shop, but instead she has been turned into a lady of the upper class. Eliza now has to depend on Higgins because she cannot get a job by herself. She is too high-class to find a job in a florist shop. She also cannot go back to living as a flower girl, which she secretly has a desire to do. Higgins has made it so there is no possible way Eliza can go back into lower-class society. Eliza's happiness is reduced at the end of Higgins' lessons. Eliza hates living with Higgins in such a high-class society. She would rather be back in the gutter selling flowers, which is a fault on Higgins' part. This shows that now she realizes all her lessons had been mostly in vain. She has gained almost nothing out of it. This bad for Higgins because he had wanted to some extent, make Eliza a happier person.

         Eliza has been made more of an unhappy person. Eliza has benefited in the fact that she has become a woman of the upper class and that she can speak fluent English. On the other hand, she has diminished in the fact that she has lost her independence, and she is unhappy. She feels that she has only two choices--to marry the hapless Freddy, which she does in the original play or to return to the arrogant Higgins, which she does in the movie.

Sarah Weaver

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