Notes on Characters from Pygmalion

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Pygmalion Major Characters

Henry Higgins: Expert phonetician and spoiled eccentric. Stubbornly self-righteous and willful, Higgins demonstrates his ideals in his brazen disregard for the Victorian rules of conduct. On a bet, he takes on the flower girl, Eliza, as a student. But though he alters Eliza's speech successfully, he cannot succeed in controlling her. He asserts that she is his creation, but she rebels, even threatening to teach others using his methods, at which point she gains his respect.

Eliza Doolittle: Poor flower girl turned linguistic protégé. Headstrong and coarse street urchin taken into Professor Higgins care on a bet that he cannot transform her into the verisimilitude of a duchess. Despite her rebellious nature, Eliza becomes fond of her teacher and is upset by his impartiality. She ends up marrying Freddy, a member of the middle class who worships her, and sets up a flower shop with him, successfully crossing class lines.

Colonel Pickering: A wealthy bachelor and expert in Indian dialects. Pickering comes to England from India to meet Higgins, and ends up staying in his home and becoming his good friend. When Eliza asks Higgins to teach her to speak proper English, Pickering bets him that he cannot make Liza pass for a duchess in six months time. Higgins takes the bet, and while he teaches her phonetics, Pickering imparts to her all the finer aspects of social conduct. Pickering also finances Eliza's flower shop after she graduates from their finishing school game. He is the more sensitive and fatherly of the two linguists.

Mrs. Higgins: Higgins' mother, and his ideal woman. Mrs. Higgins is a refined, independent woman, who repeatedly tries to reform her son's wild social habits. Higgins visits her often for her company and her advice.

Alfred Doolittle: Eliza's father, a common dustman, who begs for change to spend at the pub. He convinces Higgins to give him five pounds for the use of his daughter by surprising and impressing him with his unconventional, compelling morals. Higgins mentions him to a philanthropist who dies and wills Doolittle three thousand pounds a year to lecture for his Moral Reform League. This catapults Doolittle into the middle class, causing him to marry his longtime lover and take on the responsibility of lending money to the people he used to beg from.

Minor Characters

Clara: Mrs. Eynsford Hill's obnoxious daughter, who though failing to inherit the wealth of the privileged has inherited all its snobbery. She discovers that she can gain the respect and friendship of others by being honest with them rather than putting on airs after reading some H.G. Wells. Her discovery is a sort of accident, as her mother and the rest of her acquaintances never bother to point out her shallow insincerity.

Freddy: Mrs. Eynsford Hill's son and Eliza's lover. Freddy is accustomed to a middle class lifestyle but, like his sister, lacks a middle class education. He falls madly in love with Eliza and eventually marries her. They try to open a flower shop together, but do poorly until they take some classes in simple mathematics.

Mrs. Eynsford Hill: Clara and Freddy's mother. A former member of the upper class, who now attempts to keep up appearances although she is in reduced circumstances. She is continuously bemoaning her situation and coddling her poorly educated children.

Mrs. Pearce: Higgins' maid, who disapproves of his poor manners and willful behavior but has become inured to them over time. She attempts to convince Higgins that his arrangement with Eliza cannot be taken lightly, but fails.

Nepomuuck: Higgins' former student, a translator, and self-proclaimed master linguist. At the Embassy party, where Higgins hopes Eliza will pass as a duchess, Nepommuck proclaims that she is a Hungarian of royal blood.

Ezra D. Wannafeller: Rich American philanthropist, who transforms Alfred Doolittle from a common dustman to a member of the middle class by willing him three thousand pounds a year to lecture for the Wannafeller Moral Reform League.

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