A Three-Sided Pyg

         Many times the two main characters in stories are such polar opposites, a third party is needed to reel in the extremes of the personalities of the first two. As is the situation in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, so enters Cornel Pickering (Scott Sunderland). Without him this story would never level out, it would always be violently heated and almost to stressful to watch. He levels out Eliza's (Wendy Hiller) "streetness" with Higgins' (Leslie Howard) cold way of dealing with her.

         Eliza represents passion. She kind of has an animal like quality about her similar to Stanley (Marlon Brando) in Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan. At the same time she is also human; she has the capacity to change, to grow as a person. She would have probably been perfectly happy being a flower girl, not really giving a damn about the aristocracy and high society, and would rather dream about other things. But it was not until she was taken in by Higgins and Pickering that she was able to realize her full potential.

         Higgins is the polar opposite of Eliza. "Doomed" to be a bachelor for the rest of his life, he really does not mind. Everything with Higgins is either black or white; there is no grey area with him. He truly is an emotional ice cube; however, in his defense I do not think he realizes how big of an ass he is. He treats Eliza as somewhat of a second-class citizen; he believes she is some kind of animal and therefore should not have to treat her with the respect of being an actual human being.

         Pickering is the stable one; it is through him that the story is able to come together. He has the same education and social status as Higgins; however, he is still capable of being humble and treating Eliza with respect. Possibly because of his background in the military he knows to treat a lady like a lady, whether it be a flower girl or the queen of England, which is obvious from the first scene where the three accidentally bump into each other.

         Pickering is necessary for Pygmalion to work. It is he that bridges the gap between the two polar opposites of Eliza and Higgins. Without him, it would have just been too intense, Higgins and Eliza would have eventually killed each other, or Eliza would have simply left and then there would not have been any story.

Jon Jones

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