In Act I of Pygmalion, what does Shaw seem to think of Clara, and how does her manner contrast with that of The Flower Girl?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Clara is first introduced in Pygmalion in a voice of exasperation and dominance ("What can Freddy be doing all this time?"). Then, in case there remains any doubt as to her temperament, she confirms an ill-willed temperament and personality by being judgemental and demandingly critical ("If Freddy had a bit of gumption, he would have got one at the theatre door. ... Other people got cabs. Why couldn't he?"). Shaw makes it clear from the outset that Clara is going to be his foil character, the one that has character traits that are opposed to (the opposite of) the good traits the protagonist has. Shaw also makes it clear from the absence of any mitigating information (nobody defends Clara, nobody excuses her behavior, nobody says she has redeeming qualities, etc) and from the full accord of the general opinion of Clara's bad behavior, that Shaw doesn't like her either.

Clara's behavior contrasts completely with The Flower Girl's behavior in every way. The Flower Girl shows by her deportment, despite her uncouth language, that she is considerate of others in addition to having dignity and being able to defend her dignity ("Nah then, Freddy: look wh' y' gowin, deah. ... Theres menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad."); she has respect for people and for the law; she has deep moral values that are strenghtened by her sense of her human dignity and rights. In short, she's admirable and Clara isn't.