Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Henry Higgins, a linguistic scientist. A robust and handsome forty-year-old bachelor, Higgins is violently enthusiastic about anything scientific, but he is absolutely uncivilized in his relations with people. Although he firmly believes himself to be kindhearted and considerate, he is a bad-tempered and profane bully. Even so, his frankness and lack of malice make it impossible for anyone to dislike him. Higgins makes a bet with another scientist, Colonel Pickering, that he can, in six months, make a Cockney flower girl speak so well that she can be passed off as a duchess.
Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl. Dirty and ignorant, Eliza comes to Higgins and pathetically begs him to teach her to speak well enough to run a respectable flower shop. He teaches her to speak like a noblewoman. Grown fond of Higgins and grateful to him, Eliza tries to please him and is ignored. Higgins thinks it unnatural for Eliza to have feelings. He does not understand why she is enraged when, after she has successfully passed herself off as a noblewoman, he and Pickering congratulate each other and ignore her. To assert herself, Eliza threatens to go into competition with Higgins, using his own methods of teaching proper speech. Higgins rudely congratulates Eliza on her assertiveness and welcomes her as a friend and equal. Eliza marries not Higgins but Freddy Hill. They open a flower shop that, with...
(The entire section is 655 words.)
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See Miss Clara Eynsford Hill.
See Alfred Doolittle.
Alfred is Liza's father, whom Shaw describes as "an elderly but vigorous dustman.... He has well marked and rather interesting features, and seems equally free from fear or conscience. He has a remarkably expressive voice, the result of a habit of giving vent to his feelings without reserve." Doolittle describes himself as the "undeserving poor," who need just as much as the deserving but never get anything because of the disapproval of middle-class morality. Nevertheless, he is a skilled moocher who is capable of finessing loans from the most miserly of people. He is miserable when he comes into money during the course of the play, however, because people then come with hopes of borrowing money.
A cockney flower girl of around 18 or 20 years of age, Eliza is streetwise and energetic. She is not educated by traditional standards, but she is intelligent and a quick learner. As she presents herself in her "shoddy coat" at Higgins's laboratory, Shaw describes the "pathos of this deplorable figure, with its innocent vanity and consequential air." She learns a genteel accent from Higgins and, washed and dressed exquisitely, passes in society for a Duchess. In this transformed state, she is shown to be capable of inspiring awe in the observer. While she wins Higgins's wager for...
(The entire section is 1087 words.)