Discuss the transformation of Eliza in Pygmalion.

In Pygmalion, Eliza is transformed from a humble Cockney flower seller to a lady who can pass herself off as a member of the upper classes. This is the handiwork of Henry Higgins, an eminent linguist. Higgins also unwittingly transforms Eliza into a more forthright, independent woman who is capable of standing up for herself.

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The most famous part of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion is Eliza Doolittle's transformation from a Cockney flower girl to someone who can pass for royalty. The shift astonishes everyone who knew Eliza before and puffs Henry Higgins's ego immensely. However, Eliza's arc comes just as much from her own realizations as it does from Higgins's diction lessons. It must be remembered that she showed plenty of intelligence and drive when she first appeared at Higgins's house: it is unlikely that she would have gotten as far as she did were she not a good pupil in the first place.

Eliza's transformation goes beyond prettying up her speech, changing her clothes, and giving her new manners: she changes as a person altogether, growing more confident and outspoken. Instead of remaining Higgins's favorite test subject, she chooses to start up her flower shop and initiate a relationship with the simple-minded but kind-hearted Freddy in spite of Higgins's objections. She no longer lives her life as Higgins believes she should (that is, in subservience to him), which is one way of her finally coming into her own. She even claims that she might act as an assistant to Higgins's rival linguist or give out language lessons of her own, infuriating Higgins to no end. This might be the most impressive aspect of her character arc: not her new manners and improved grammar, but her inner strength and independence.

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By anyone's standards, the transformation experienced by Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion is truly remarkable. At the start of the play, she's a humble Cockney flower-seller, struggling like so many of London's working-class people to make ends meet in a harsh, unforgiving society that looks down on the poor and dispossessed.

Yet by the end of proceedings, it's no exaggeration to say that Eliza is like a whole different woman. Thanks to the patient tutelage of linguistics expert Henry Higgins, she can now pass for a lady in polite society, where her cut-class accent completely fools people into thinking that she's of a higher class than she really is.

On the whole, then, Higgins can be well pleased with his work. At the same time, Higgins possibly Eliza as a kind of Frankenstein's monster in that she has become more assertive and independent-minded as a result of this experiment, something Higgins never intended.

No longer willing to be controlled by Higgins—or any other man, for that matter—the newly-confident Eliza asserts her independence and leaves him. Though Higgins is smugly confident that she'll come back to him, it's fair to say that he didn't plan on her walking out on him in the first place.

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Under the tutelage of Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle's accent, dress, and manners change so that she transforms from a working-class Cockney woman into an upper-class English lady. By showing how easily Eliza becomes upper-class by adopting only a few superficial changes, Shaw skewers an ideology that maintains that the upper classes are "innately" superior to the the lower. Even a little education, the play shows, can make a lady out of a flower seller.

But Eliza's transformation goes deeper, and Shaw shows this to be both positive and negative. On the positive side, her acceptance into higher society builds her sense of confidence and self-worth. She rebels and asserts herself against Henry Higgins' verbal abuse, such as his calling her a "squashed cabbage," as well as his careless assumption that she will always function to suit his convenience--and go away as soon as she becomes inconvenient. Henry treats her as a thing: Eliza insists, at the end, on being treated as a human. On the negative side, however, the play points out that by transforming Eliza into a lady, Higgins has left her unfit for any role in society but marriage. Shaw critiques a culture in which a woman's ascent up the class ladder leaves her increasingly useless and dependent. As a working girl selling flowers, Eliza might have been very poor, but at least she could earn her own keep. As a lady, she must marry and rely on a man to support her, for holding a job in that class would be unacceptable for a woman. 

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    Eliza Doolittle makes the transition from uneducated Cockney flower girl to elegant duchess in George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion. Eliza's transformation from a girl of the streets to a beauty whose manners and appearance inspires awe--from just about everyone except Henry Higgins, that is--is complete, up to the end of the experiment. After Higgins wins his bet, his job is over, and Eliza's allure proves to have worked on everyone except the man who has shaped her new persona. She realizes that her new life has come to a standstill, since she feels she can no longer return to her flowers. However, her capacity for learning and change is still in its infancy, and Eliza still has enormous room to grow. It is Higgins who has reached his limits, and he is the one with a lack of inner growth capabilities. Meanwhile, Eliza discovers that appearances and social graces are not necessarily a means to an end, for in Higgins she sees that perfection is only skin deep. She has been become a lady in nearly every respect, but Higgins still fails to treat her as one. Consequently, her intellectual growth is not a completely happy one since her new independence repels Higgins and, in the end, she sees that he is far from the perfect man. And, in turn, she finds her new identity, her new class status, a mystery as well.

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