Pygmalion Questions and Answers
by George Bernard Shaw

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In Pygmalion, how is Mrs. Higgins's point of view influenced by the time and culture in which she lives?

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Mrs. Higgins has very conventional notions for her time and place, which is the early 1900s in England, where she is a lady in her early sixties of comfortable means. Her home, as described by Shaw, is quite typical of a woman of her class, furnished with William Morris prints and good oil paintings. Like a woman of her class, she is shocked and affronted when her son tells her he has invited a common flower seller to her "at home," a time when a lady was known to be available to receive guests. Mrs. Higgins says of the imminent arrival of Eliza Doolittle,

And [you] invited her to my at-home!

To Mrs. Higgins, the idea of having a working-class young woman in her home is an insult to her, though she rises to the occasion and, as is also typical of her time and place, is quite polite to Eliza when she arrives to practice her newly-acquired upper-class accent.

Mrs. Higgins is also quite willing, like a woman of her time and place, to cater to her adult son (because he is a man) and do what it takes to make his life easier. For example, at the end of the play when Eliza storms out, refusing to do his bidding, Mrs. Higgins says to Henry,

But never mind, dear: I'll buy you the tie and gloves.

Because of her upbringing, Mrs. Higgins is prejudiced against working-class people and caters to men.

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