What did Eliza, Pickering and Higgins each do for a living in Pygmalion?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eliza sells flowers on the streets of east London, Pickering is a linguist and retired soldier, and Higgins is a linguistic scientist and professor of phonetics. But this doesn't really tell us all that we need to know in a play that is an exploration and critique of the British class system. Higgins and Pickering are vastly wealthier than Eliza, who has never been seen a bathtub and rents a unheated room, barely scraping by on her income of about half a crown a day. To the men, half a crown is pocket change, nothing--to her it is her all in all. This comes out early in the play, when Eliza arrives at Higgins' home prepared to pay a shilling for speech lessons. 

As Higgins says to Pickering:

You know, Pickering, if you consider a shilling, not as a simple shilling, but as a percentage of this girl's income, it works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire.

This shilling, laughable to Higgins and Pickering, is, in other words, a large percentage of Eliza's income. 

Higgins thinks the difference in their income means he can treat Eliza despicably, but the play shows there's more to class than the accident of birth.