In G.B. Shaw's play Pygmalion, what does Eliza mean when she says, "I am a good girl"?   

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Eliza may be a humble Cockney flower-seller, but she still considers herself a thoroughly respectable young lady. Maybe not the lady of the quality that Higgins would have her be—at least not yet—but still a cut above the street-walkers and pickpockets who regularly haunt this part of town of a night.

Eliza's insistence that she's "a good girl" indicates she has a strong sense of pride and dignity. No matter what life has thrown at her—and it's thrown a hell of a lot in her direction over the years—she can still hold her head up high and say that she's not a common criminal as so many in her position would be.

Eliza's elevated sense of integrity should have put Higgins on notice that he'll have his work cut out in transforming what he believes to be little more than a guttersnipe into a refined, aristocratic lady. After all, her feistiness will make it so much more difficult for him to mold Eliza into the form of his ideal woman. But as an innovator, as a man of science—not to mention a monstrous egomaniac—he likes a challenge.

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Icie Brekke eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Eliza says, "I'm a good girl, I am" in the opening scene of the play after her quality of character is mistakenly called into question. From the context of the dialogue, one can infer that as Eliza was selling flowers on the street late at night, she could have been perceived as a lady of the night. No one thought she was anything but innocent until they noticed Henry taking down notes off to the side. Everyone suspected that he was a "copper nark," a detective, or an informer for the police. The characters on the street started to assume that Henry was writing down evidence against Eliza and started to stick up for her. At one point, a sarcastic bystander said to Eliza, "I'd like to go into the Housing Question with you, I would," which set her up to look like a lady of the night. Her response was that she is a good girl and wouldn't do something impure like that.

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