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GB Shaw's ''Pygmalion'' was written and first performed in 1912; and the title is loosely based on the ancient Greek myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, in which story the artist/sculptor Pygmalion makes such a lovely and ideal statue of a woman , so realistic, that he ends up falling in love with it. The gods, taking pity on his condition,bring the woman (Galatea) to life and they 'live happily ever after'.
However, that is not exactly Shaw's style, and his title is more of a tongue in cheek witticism. This particular play attacks (as all of Shaw's works attack something 'conventional' or the other) (a) society and status-consciousness and (b) langauage and class/status differences. Here, we have a sort of 'anti-Pygmalion' in Prof Henry Higgins and a highly unlikely Galatea in Eliza Doolittle. I am sure you've already read the play. The main points about some of the principal characters mentioned by you can be simply enliste thus:
1. Eliza Doolittle: Is a poor Cockney flower girl in London, who is picked up literally 'from the gutter' by Prof Henry Higgins the linguist and phonetics expert and his friend, Colonel Pickering , to fulfil their bet that they can teach her sufficient 'proper' language and deportment to pass off as a noblewoman at an embassy ball. Initially, Eliza is rather crude and raw, unlettered and uncivilised and a somewhat seedy, frightened and prudish girl, lacking any semblance of confidence or poise. However, after Higgins's training, she emerges as a beautiful, graceful and sublimely confident person, a whole personality change wrought about that also changes her relationship with Higgins. Further complications of all sorts now develop, once that this 'Galatea' is brought to life.
2. Henry Higgins: is the rather arrogant, and yet affable language and phonetics scholar and coach. He belongs to a different class altogether and is almost always very self-assured and self-confident, even to the point of being rude to everyone. However, there is no malice in Higgins, he is not a hypocrite and above all pettiness. To him, his own feelings and Eliza's 'post-training' personality and reactions, all come as a bit of a surprise.
3. Colonel Pickering: A friend and associate of Higgins, and a 'Pukka' bachelor like him, Colonel Pickering is a world-renowned scholar of Sanskrit and has come back to England after years of service in colonial India. He is what was known, back then in Edwardian times, as a 'proper gentleman'-- one of nature's gentlemen in fact, and according to Eliza, he never ever made her feel inferior and made her 'feel' like a 'lady'; and his behaviour and personality stand out in contrast to Higgins's. He is very fatherly towards Eliza, pitying her when he realizes she cares for a 'hard' case such as Higgins, and he helps set her up in her future life/career.
4. Mrs. Pearce: Is Housekeeper to Higgins and Pickering, in their house; and she is a most superior and decent old lady-- most respectable-- firm, brisk, clean, efficient and yet motherly. Initially she has serious reservations about Eliza and her dubious introduction into the bachelor household she manages, but in time she comes to feel affection for the girl and also helps and guides her in many ways.
I believe of the other characters, that of Alfred Doolittle, the Dustman, Eliza's father, is also well worth study.
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