Mrs. Higgins, Motherly Love

     In George Bernard Shaw's 1913 version of Pygmalion, Henry's mother becomes an automatic mother type figure to Eliza. She can be viewed as a heroine in Eliza's eyes as well as to the reader or viewer of the 1938 movie version, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

     We meet Eliza's father (Wilfred Lawson) during the play/movie but never see or even barely hear of her mother. Alfred Doolittle is a man of no manners or etiquette, which helps describe why Eliza is merely a common, poorly educated and under-spoken flower girl. But the simple fact of not mentioning the importance of Eliza's mother can help explain her lack of womanly views and actions. Mrs. Higgins (Marie Lohr) seems to be perfect for a mother-like figure for Eliza, and she shows it early as the young lady comes to visit her. Mrs. Higgins is very nice to Eliza, and the girl seems to take to the elderly lady as well.

     Although Mrs. Higgins seems not to be as motherly toward Henry (Leslie Howard), her characteristics help develop Henry's character. She tells Henry not to mistake a girl's feelings and emotions for some study or bet. When Henry tells her that Eliza had thrown his slippers at him, Mrs. Higgins replies, "If you treated me like you did her, I'd have thrown the fire iron at you."

     When Eliza leaves and we next find that she is with Mrs. Higgins, it lets us know that there has to be something inside Eliza that tells her she can trust Mrs. Higgins. And, since Mrs. Higgins was not quick to give Eliza's whereabouts, this shows that she cares for Eliza's well being too. She tells Henry that Eliza is willing to try to work things out and be civil, then warns Henry to do the same and this time consider Eliza's feelings.

Tim Alsobrooks

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