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Eliza Doolittle

  • Date Submitted: 03/24/2011 07:51 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 71.6 
  • Words: 1942
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In what ways does Eliza change during the play and in what ways does she not change?

Eliza changes dramatically in terms of her appearance and accent: her metamorphosis is in fact the most important theme in the play.   Higgins teaches her how to speak “like a lady” and also how to dress and behave like one.  

The stage directions for Act I describe her dirty, scruffy appearance: “She is not at all an attractive person”.   Her features are “no worse than” those of the ladies but she is let down by her poor clothes, her “shoddy black coat”, and we hear that, “Her hair needs washing rather badly:”   She is also quite loud with a very strong cockney accent: “Ow, eez ye-ooa san, is e?   Wal, fewd dan y’de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin.”   She betrays her origin in every word she says: Higgins calls it ”kerbstone English…the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days.”   She is desperately poor and almost begging in her manner as she presses the public to buy her flowers.   “Oh do buy a flower off me Captain.   I can change half-a-crown.”, and again, “Buy a flower, kind gentleman.   I’m short for my lodging.”

Even by Act II Eliza’s appearance has changed dramatically.   Earlier Shaw had made the point that she was as clean as she could afford to be. “She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty.”   Later she tells her father “it’s easy to clean up here.   Hot and cold water on tap”.   As soon as she is clean and wearing new clothes she is so transformed that even her own father doesn’t recognise her: “he is confronted with a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady…..He gets out of her way deferentially”.  
Eliza is bright and she works hard.   Even Higgins admits that, “She has a quick ear“.     By the time she makes her appearance at Mrs Higgins’s flat in Act III she is already speaking...


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