In act 4, describe the men's attitudes?Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After the embassy ball in which Eliza has performed so well that everyone is convinced that she is a lady, she and Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering return to the Wimpole Street laboratory at midnight.

With completely supercilious attitudes, the two men talk about Eliza as though she is not capable of understanding them, or so insignificant that they are indifferent to whether she does understand or not. For, when she flinches violently at Higgins's comment, "Thank God it's over!" they take no notice of her.  In fact, they speak as though she is not present,

[Pickering] "Were you nervous at the graden party?  I was. Eliza didn't seem a bit nervous."

[Higgins] "Oh, she wasn't nervous.  I knew she'd be all right.  No: it's the strain of putting the job through all these months that has told on me...."

Ignoring the presence of Eliza, Higgins continues to only speak to Pickering.  Then, he gives Eliza instructions as though she is a servant, "Put out the lights, Eliza; and tell Mrs. Pearce not to make coffee."  But, when Eliza throws his slippers at him when he cannot find them, Higgins is astounded at her behavior.  His obtuseness indicates his self-focus and lack of concern for Eliza. It is as though she is a mere lab animal that he looks in wonder at her:

[Higgins] "The creature is nervous, after all."

Then, as Eliza asks what is to become of her, Higgins replies without concern, "What does it matter what becomes of you?"  Lacking any understanding, Higgins simply reacts to Eliza's despair with merely condescending words to what he considers a trivial subject.  Nevertheless, while belittling her feelings, it is not without kindness that he says,

"I shouldn't bother about it if I were you. I should imagine you son't have much difficulty in settling yourself somewhere or other, though I hadn't quite realized that you were going away....You go to bed and have a good nice rest; and then get up and look at yourself in the glass; and you won't feel so cheap."

Without intending to be so, Higgins is selfish and inconsiderate. For instance, while Eliza is having a crisis of identity, he merely remarks, "I'm devilish sleepy."  Then, as Eliza asks if her clothes still belong to her, he is baffled at what he considers the irrationality of the question, "What the devil use would they be to Pickering?"  Further, he subjectively accuses Eliza of being ungrateful and of having wounded him, and he becomes angry,leaving the room and slamming the door:

...damn my own folly in having lavished my hard-earned knowledge and the treasure of my regard and intimacy on a heartless guttersnipe.

For all her education, Eliza is not of the upperclass as she is so painfully reminded by the supercilious attitudes of Higgins and Pickering.