While Eliza, who grew up in the Lisson Grove slums of London, may not have had an education, she has the smarts enough to know that she will need one in order to survive. Moreover, while the education offered to most women in Victorian England taught little more than the knowledge of how to “maintain order inside the home and provide a safe haven” (Langlinans 76) for their families, it imparted upon women several years of elocution studies. For the study of elocution was so popular during the Victorian era that it allowed men, such as Higgins, to devote their lives to the study and teaching of it and speech itself became a sign ofOrder now
Fisher Three one’s education. Eliza realizes that she will never attain the position of a shop-girl in a flower shop and gain middle class respectability if she continues with her many “aw-ah-ah-ow-oo-o”(Shaw 1) and other phonetics that signify her lack of education. Furthermore, in having the desire to be educated, or at least have the appearance of having had such, Eliza allows herself to be subjugated by Higgins. Shaw presents Higgins not as a teacher or savior, but as a domineering man attempting to subjugate a woman due to her lack of schooling.
For it is Eliza’s lack of an education that brings her to Higgins flat and allows Higgins to be a “superman attempting to transform a subhuman into a human” (Matlaw 58) who threatens Eliza with acts of brutality and denotes her status as a member of the lower class by repeated name calling and disregard for her feelings. When Higgins states that Eliza does “not have any feelings that we need worry about” (Shaw 2) he is showing the contempt, which he and the middle class holds for the lower class.
However, the desire felt by Eliza to become a respectful member of society, one who is not of the lower class, drives her to commit herself to becoming a subject in Higgins controlled experiment and overlook the barbs and slights from Higgins that she receives due to her lack of education. “I sold flowers. I did not sell myself” (Shaw 4) declares Eliza to Higgins as her tutelage comes to an end and she realizes that she is no better off than she was when she had started. In one of Shaw’s other major plays, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, he equates prostitution with capitalism and it’s damning effect on society.
Here Shaw makes the connection between prostitution, the lack of an education , and the life of a poor flower girl. While Eliza may or not end up with the respectability she craves so desperately and the education she so desires, she Fisher Four leaves the audience with the knowledge that she will “…always have her character, something that can’t be taken away” (Shaw 2). For it is the strength of Eliza’s character, hardened and created by years of abuse as a lower class woman, which allows her to survive her ordeal with Higgins with her dignity intact.
Works Cited Auerbach, Sascha. ““A Right Sort of Man”: Gender, Class Identity, and Social Reform in Late-Victorian Britain. ” Journal of Policy History 22. 01 (2010): 64-75. Print. Langlinais, Chantel. “Framing The Victorian Heroine: Representations Of The Ideal Woman In Art And Fiction. ” Interdisciplinary Humanaties 22. 2 (2005): 73-93. EBSCO. Web. 6 Sept. 2012. Matlaw, Myron. “The Denouement of Pygmalion. ” Modern Drama 55. 1 (1958): 29. Gale. Web. 5 Sept. 2012. Shaw, Bernard. Pygmalion. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.