Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle are the main characters in George Bernard Shaw's classic play Pygmalion. The story involves the attempt by Higgins, a professor of phonetics and language, to transform the poor Cockney girl Eliza into a properly-spoken English gentlewoman. The project begins as a bet with another man, Colonel Pickering, who believes the transformation is impossible.
Higgins and Eliza clash throughout the play, but the professor initially has some success improving Eliza's diction and comportment. She manages to "pass" as a proper lady at a ball and even attracts the attention of a gentleman. But underneath the veneer of more "proper" speech patterns and behavior, she is still a Cockney girl, although with greater confidence.
Perhaps the most powerful social implication of the play is the deeply embedded nature of class and socialization. While some of the initial influences of upbringing can be modified, the dynamic between Professor Higgins and Eliza suggests that it is very difficult for people to change and that the social differences between them can be major barriers to understanding.