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Essay/Term paper: Pygmalion

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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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

child.  

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