How is Professor Higgins's behavior to Colonel Pickering different than his behavior toward Eliza Doolittle?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Professor Higgins has great respect for Colonel Pickering. A fellow linguist with a similarly stellar reputation, Pickering is someone to whom Higgins is naturally drawn. As well as close professional ties, the two men share the assumptions and prejudices of their class. Like Higgins, Pickering hails from the upper echelons...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Professor Higgins has great respect for Colonel Pickering. A fellow linguist with a similarly stellar reputation, Pickering is someone to whom Higgins is naturally drawn. As well as close professional ties, the two men share the assumptions and prejudices of their class. Like Higgins, Pickering hails from the upper echelons of society and can therefore easily relate to a man that many people, and not just Eliza Dolittle, find so snobbish and condescending.

As one might expect, Eliza is not treated by Higgins with anything like the same degree of courtesy and respect as Colonel Pickering. A humble Cockney flower-seller, she occupies a position on the very lowest rung of society's ladder. As such, Higgins sees no reason why he should treat her with any respect or consideration. To him, she is a nobody; a dirt-poor, uneducated ragamuffin whose sole use lies in her remarkable suitability as a guinea-pig in a revolutionary experiment in social engineering.

Whereas Higgins accepts Pickering as a subject in the fullest sense of the word, as a social and intellectual equal, he regards Eliza as nothing more than an object to be exploited for the benefit of his own professional reputation as a linguist of repute.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team