Essay/Term paper: Pygmalion
Essay, term paper, research paper: Cliff Notes
Higgins' Philosophy Professor Higgins is seen throughout
Pygmalion as a very rude man. While one may expect a well
educated man, such as Higgins, to be a gentleman, he is far
from it. Higgins believes that how you treated someone is
not important, as long as you treat everyone equally. The
great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good
manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having
the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if
you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class
carriages, and one soul is as good as another. -Higgins, Act
V Pygmalion. Higgins presents this theory to Eliza, in hope
of justifying his treatment of her. This theory would be fine
IF Higgins himself lived by it. Henry Higgins, however, lives
by a variety of variations of this philosophy. It is easily seen
how Higgins follows this theory. He is consistently rude
towards Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, and his mother. His manner is
the same to each of them, in accordance to his philosophy.
However the Higgins we see at the parties and in good times
with Pickering is well mannered. This apparent discrepancy
between Higgins' actions and his word, may not exist,
depending on the interpretation of this theory. There are two
possible translations of Higgins' philosophy. It can be viewed
as treating everyone the same all of the time or treating
everyone equally at a particular time. It is obvious that
Higgins does not treat everyone equally all of the time, as
witnessed by his actions when he is in "one of his states" (as
Mrs. Higgins' parlor maid calls it). The Higgins that we see in
Mrs. Higgins' parlor is not the same Higgins we see at the
parties. When in "the state" Henry Higgins wanders aimlessly
around the parlor, irrationally moving from chair to chair,
highly unlike the calm Professor Higgins we see at the ball.
Higgins does not believe that a person should have the same
manner towards everyone all of the time, but that a person
should treat everyone equally at a given time (or in a certain
situation). When he is in "one of those states" his manner is
the same towards everyone; he is equally rude and
disrespectful to all. Yet when minding his manners, as he
does at the parties, he can be a gentleman. If the second
meaning of Higgins' theory, that he treats everyone equally at
a particular time, is taken as his philosophy, there is one
major flaw. Higgins never respects Eliza, no matter who is
around. In Act V of Pygmalion, Eliza confronts him about his
manner towards her. "He (Pickering) treats a flower girl as
duchess." Higgins, replying to Eliza, "And I treat a duchess
as a flower girl." In an attempt to justify this Higgins replies
"The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether
you ever heard me treat anyone else better." Eliza does not
answer this question but the reader knows that Higgins has
treated others better than Eliza. At the parties, for example,
Higgins is a gentleman to the hosts and other guest, but still
treats Eliza as his "experiment." Higgins could never see the
"new" Eliza. Higgins only saw the dirty flower girl that had
become his "experiment." Much like an author never sees a
work as finished, Higgins could not view Eliza lady or
duchess. Since Higgins knew where Eliza came from it was
difficult for him to make her parts fit together as a
masterpiece that he respected. Part of Higgins' problem in
recognizing the "new" Eliza is his immaturity. He does not
see her as what she is, he only sees her as what she was.
This immaturity is representative of Higgins' childish
tendencies that the reader can see throughout the play.
Higgins' child-like actions can partially explain the variations
in his philosophy. Try to imagine Higgins as a young
teenager. A young Higgins, or any teenage boy for that
matter, has a very limited outlook. They treat everyone the
same; depending on the situation they may be little gentlemen
or rude dudes. When around parents the teenager is rude
and inconsiderate yet when among his friends he a complete
gentleman. The adult Higgins' actions are the same as the
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