Loss of Identity, Independence, and Life

         Miss Eliza Doolittle, as portrayed by Audrey Hepburn, suffered a loss in the 1964 film My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, whereas Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913, left us with hope that Eliza would gain back her independence. Mrs. Pearce, the housekeeper, played by Jean Cadell, is trying to look out for the poor girl. Eliza really does not know what she is getting herself involved in. Before meeting Higgins, as depicted by Rex Harrison, she is very capable of taking care of herself.

         From the beginning Higgins does not seem to care much for Eliza. He jokes about throwing her in the gutter or having her head cut off if she could not pass the test. Mrs. Pearce herself says that, when he gets involved with people's accents, he does not care about what happens to them. This is obvious after Eliza has won the bet for him at the ball. When they all arrive back at the house, Higgins and Pickering, as acted by Wilfred Hyde-White, are extremely delighted to have fooled everyone at the ball. They do not once thank Eliza for doing all the work. They do not even acknowledge her presence there until Higgins is looking for his slippers. Mr. Higgins is only concerned with himself and has no manners toward other people. He does not realize what Eliza has gone through. When people are poor they have to worry about finding the money to support themselves. It is certainly true that some people live paycheck to paycheck and have to spend time worrying over what will happen next. This type of anxiety is what is on Eliza's mind. Higgins has no idea because he does not have to worry about money.

         In My Fair Lady, Eliza tries to go back to the place that she used to live, but no one seems to recognize her. I once heard that, when people move away from home, they are often seen as not belonging in either place. Eliza has no idea where she fits in the world at this point. Her identity and independence have been stripped from her. I am a fan of the ending of her leaving Higgins. At least that way there is some hope for her to gain back some sort of identity and be with Freddy Eynsford-Hill on equal terms. However, at the end of My Fair Lady, Higgins does show a little appreciation on his face towards the screen when he asks for his slippers. I suppose that was a big step for him to be nice after she has lowered her flag of independence to come back to him.

         My only fear is that the singing Higgins may try to make Eliza be more like an unmarriageable man. Not only will there be two bachelors living out there days in that house, but now also a manly, dependent old maid.

Jessica Chandler

Table of Contents