Eliza Doolittle was content, she thought, in her own world of rummaging and pleading around Convent Garden in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. When Professor Higgins (Leslie Howard) and Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland) bring her (Wendy Hiller) into their world of polish and lace, it was like a child expanding their horizons at a college or university. New worlds collide and people tend to change.
Eliza changed; but it seemed that, after the ball at the Embassy, she realized that with change came more change. She knew she would have to leave some time, but when the time came, she felt just as lost, if not more, than when she first arrived at Professor Higgins' place.
The same seems to hold true for college students. They come to the university to learn new things and to change their paths in life. They start to grow accustomed to the daily fare of classes and freedom from worry of the real world. They spend four, five, maybe even six years in the comfort of being in between--somewhat in the real world, but still a dependent on their parents' tax returns.
When the time comes to walk across the stage, Eliza's cry: "What's to become of me?" rings out in every graduate's ear. It is the paranoia of many college seniors as they near graduation…"Now what!?"
Like Eliza leaving the comforts and assurance of Professor Higgins's home, we must leave the set schedule of classes and parties and "no worries" for the threat of the REAL WORLD! Just like Eliza after the ball, we are at a crossroads in life when we accept that very expensive piece of paper.
Eliza thought change and education would make her life a lot better and easier, just as students are preached to every day. It does make things better, and easier…at least a little more pleasant, but does it not change one's perspective on life?
Education makes people more aware of things and opens their eyes to what's wrong in the world or who's doing right and who's doing wrong. It starts to confuse the brain more because they know more, and they wonder what they should do to maintain the norm. Eliza does not know how she will maintain the norm once she walks across the "stage" of Professor Higgins' threshold. She has got the education and polish, but she has nowhere to go or nothing to do with that new life, just like college students. "What am I fit for?...Where am I to go? What am I to do? What's to become of me?"
Professors and advisors idolize Professor Higgins by replying to the uncertainty of Eliza by saying, "'I should imagine you won't have much difficulty in settling yourself somewhere or other…'"
It is the never-ending vicious and unknown cycle except to those that live it everyday. For Eliza it came in the form of an embassy ball; to college students it comes in the form of a piece of paper and a handshake. In the play, Eliza goes off into the world to make her mark, whereas in the movie, she returns to Higgins, as a number of financially and/or economically insecure graduates do today, constantly wearing their party t-shirts or fraternity letters with their pajama pants everyday before starting a new job.