A Puppet without Strings

         In the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor and based on Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe's 1956 musical play by Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, originally based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) appears to be nothing more than a puppet for Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) to play with. Upon meeting Eliza Doolittle Henry Higgins began to criticize her speech immediately by mocking her and further humiliated her by calling her a "squashed cabbage leaf." Henry Higgins thought so little of Eliza that, without any consent from her, he made a bet with Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) that he could transform Eliza into a princess type. This was an example of Henry Higgins' personality shining through; he was most interested in achieving success no matter what the cost or whom it trampled on.

         From the beginning Henry Higgins did not consider Eliza any more important than any of his other experiments. Never did he try to warm up to Eliza and ask how she felt about the changes he wanted to make. Instead, Higgins demanded that Eliza change everything about herself; her dress, her manners, her speech, and even the topics she talked about, but he would not change anything about himself. Higgins did not listen when Mrs. Pearce (Mona Washburn) suggested it would be hard to change Eliza if she was to be around his swearing, bad manners, and cold personality.

         Another example of Henry Higgins' lack of empathy is evident when he did not try to argue with Eliza's father (Stanley Holloway) when he came to beg for five pounds in exchange for his daughter. I think any person should have been astounded and should have made it a point to say that a person does not have a price tag for his or her worth. Instead, Henry Higgins gave him the money.

         Even Mrs. Higgins, Henry's mother (Gladys Cooper) noticed that her son was being terribly inconsiderate and rude towards Eliza. She said that he and Pickering were acting as if Eliza was a doll to play with instead of a real person. It was apparent to Mrs. Higgins that Henry never really took Eliza's feelings into consideration.

         In the end of the play Eliza was transformed but did not have much happiness because of this dramatic change. Eliza was basically dropped from the hands of Henry Higgins once she completed their final project. She was left without a puppeteer to tell her what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Eliza found herself unsure of what was next for her, and Henry Higgins did not concern himself with Eliza's future at all.

Tiffany Pitman

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