Past versus Present

         “He picked up a girl from the gutter - and changed her into a glamorous society butterfly,” was the tagline for the 1938 film Pygmalion (based on the 1913 play by George Bernard Shaw), directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. Professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins (played by Leslie Howard) and writer of linguistics, Colonial Pickering, (played by Scott Sunderland) bet on whether they could pass a flower girl as an upper-class woman of good standing in six months.

        Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) was a sassy flower girl trying to make a living without becoming a lady of the night, when Professor Higgins came across her. Eliza arrives the next day to Professor Higgins’ house to try to set up speech lessons. Eliza is a strong, hardworking woman who would like to better herself. The moment she speaks, her low social class would show to her disadvantage, making it impossible to improve her life. Professor Higgins viewed this as a major challenge, and made a wager with Colonial Pickering that he would transform Eliza into a duchess in six months.

        Some might view that the real transformation came when Eliza was mistaken for a princess at the ambassador's ball. Eliza first thought that by reinventing herself she could be a success by working at a flower shop. After the total experience with Professor Higgins, she has learned that she was in charge of her own destiny.

        It was interesting for me when Eliza referred to marriage for a woman was the same as prostitution. In the time of the play, high-class women use their sexuality and charm to be accepted. Some women of today have the same attitude as those of past. Personally, I believe that women should be more independent and not rely totally on a man.

Andrea Broach

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