From Hood Rat to Princess

         Recently I just finished reading the 1913 play Pygmalion and watching the 1938 movie Pygmalion. To my surprise I found the concept of this story quite amusing. George Bernard Shaw wrote the play, and the directors of the film were Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. The story took place in an England during what I like to call a carryover from the Victorian Era right before World War I. The ladies were to act as ladies, and the men were to act as gentleman. It was a time when the royalty would have balls, and the other townspeople would be delighted if only they were invited.

         This play was about a lady that truly had no manners and was just coincidently thrown in to the arms of man that was able to teach her how to act, walk, speak, and dress like a lady should have been doing during this time period. The poor lady was named Eliza (Wendy Hiller) and her knight and shining armor was named Higgins (Leslie Howard). Neither of the two thought that in the end they would end up falling in love because at the beginning they were both so hateful to one another.

         In reading the play and watching the movie, I found Eliza to be somewhat of a handful. I did not see her as a lady was supposed to be. She was quite a tomboy who really needed some help in changing her appearance along with her attitude. As she progressed I seemed to find her more of a delight to read about and watch than a train wreck that I had once thought her to be. She changed not only in her physical appearance but also in the way that she carried herself.

         Higgins to me from the beginning was an egotistical jerk. He was completely stuck on himself, and he thought that he could do no wrong. He also believed down deep that Eliza could never be what he said she could be. He was more worried about his pride and reputation than he was about Eliza's feelings. Even at the end when these two fell in love, more overtly so in the movie than in the play, I still saw him as a jerk. He never once was a gentleman as he was supposed to be.

         When starting this play, I did not imagine myself to enjoy it as much as I did. I found this play to be amusing, as I also did the movie. I enjoyed both reading about and watching Eliza being transformed from a hood rat into a princess, as she was at the ball. In the end that was truly what she was--a princess, and I think even Higgins finally believed that to be true. In the movie, Eliza no doubt sensed that, so she returned to him, as she did not in the play, although she continued to be friends with him, as was revealed in Shaw's Afterward.

Wendy Barger

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