In the 1913 play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw and the 1938 film version by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard; we see a transformation of Eliza Doolittle. Eliza is transformed from a lowly girl who sells flowers on the street into a lady that is passed off as a princess.
In the play and the movie, Eliza (Wendy Hiller) meets Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard). Henry studies the art of phonetics. Henry claims that he can pass off Eliza, a common street girl, as a duchess. Eliza comes to Higgins wanting to buy lessons from him so she can become a lady in a flower shop. Eliza quickly becomes the object of a bet between Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland). I think the actors in the film do a good job of recreating the book. Watching the film helped me to understand the characters better and thus aided me to grasp the concepts of the book.
Throughout the film, Higgins refers to Eliza as a "squashed cabbage leaf." He does not treat her like a lady. However, Eliza proves that she is definitely not a squashed cabbage leaf by being passed off as a Hungarian princess. Despite her treatment by Professor Higgins, Eliza perseveres and learns to speak properly and to conduct herself properly. She gives credit for this to Colonel Pickering. Eliza learns a very important lesson in Pygmalion. She learns that treatment of others is what matters. She says that the difference between a lady and a flower girl is the way she is treated by society. By learning this lesson, Eliza grasps the bigger picture, and that is what makes her a true lady.
The endings of the book and the film are very different. In the book Eliza says goodbye to Professor Higgins, and we are left with the thought that she will marry Freddy. In the film, Eliza returns to Professor Higgins. I prefer the ending in the book because this proves that Eliza is a lady. If the difference between being a lady and a flower girl is in the action, Eliza should not return to Higgins because he does not treat her as a lady. Although she is not well educated, she still
deserves respect; and, by returning to Higgins, she will not be treated properly.