Henry Higgins, a linguistic scientist. A robust and handsome forty-year-old bachelor, Higgins is violently enthusiastic about anything scientific, but he is absolutely uncivilized in his relations with people. Although he firmly believes himself to be kindhearted and considerate, he is a bad-tempered and profane bully. Even so, his frankness and lack of malice make it impossible for anyone to dislike him. Higgins makes a bet with another scientist, Colonel Pickering, that he can, in six months, make a Cockney flower girl speak so well that she can be passed off as a duchess.
Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl. Dirty and ignorant, Eliza comes to Higgins and pathetically begs him to teach her to speak well enough to run a respectable flower shop. He teaches her to speak like a noblewoman. Grown fond of Higgins and grateful to him, Eliza tries to please him and is ignored. Higgins thinks it unnatural for Eliza to have feelings. He does not understand why she is enraged when, after she has successfully passed herself off as a noblewoman, he and Pickering congratulate each other and ignore her. To assert herself, Eliza threatens to go into competition with Higgins, using his own methods of teaching proper speech. Higgins rudely congratulates Eliza on her assertiveness and welcomes her as a friend and equal. Eliza marries not Higgins but Freddy Hill. They open a flower shop that, with Pickering’s help, finally becomes prosperous.
Colonel Pickering, a linguist who has traveled to London from India to see Higgins. An elderly, amiable soldier, Pickering is as confirmed a bachelor as Higgins, but he is a gentleman who treats Eliza with respect and helps to moderate Higgins’ mistreatment of her.
Alfred Doolittle, a dustman, Eliza’s father. One of the “undeserving poor,” Doolittle is distinguished by a good voice, an original mind, and a complete absence of conscience. He plans to blackmail Higgins, mistakenly thinking that Higgins has taken Eliza as his mistress. Higgins and Pickering are so delighted by the scoundrel’s straightforwardness that they give him five pounds. In a letter to Ezra D. Wannafeller, an American philanthropist, Higgins calls Doolittle “the most original moralist” in England. Wannafeller leaves Doolittle an income of four thousand pounds a year. Doolittle is thus made middle class, respectable, and, at first, thoroughly unhappy. He even marries his “old woman.” Eventually, Doolittle’s native talents, his Nietzschean philosophy, and his odd background make him much in demand in the highest society.
Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s mother, a woman of taste. She has asked her barbaric son to stay away when she is receiving guests. Her poise and competence help to bring some order into the lives of those around her.
Freddy Eynsford Hill
Freddy Eynsford Hill, the uneducated and unintelligent son of an impoverished noble family. He loves Eliza and haunts the street by Higgins’ house to catch a glimpse of her. He marries her at last and submits to her benevolent despotism.
Mrs. Eynsford Hill
Mrs. Eynsford Hill, Freddy’s mother. Quiet and well-bred, Mrs. Hill is plagued by the anxieties natural to an aristocrat without money. Because of her poverty, her children have neither education nor sophistication.
Miss Clara Eynsford Hill
Miss Clara Eynsford Hill, Freddy’s sister. An ignorant, pretentious, and useless snob, Clara is at length redeemed by reading the works of H. G. Wells and becoming a critic of society. In that role, her gaucheness is an asset.
Mrs. Pearce, Henry Higgins’ housekeeper, a very proper and very middle-class woman. Mrs. Pearce, by sheer force of will, enforces a semblance of order and propriety in Higgins’ house.
Nepommuck, a spectacularly bewhiskered Hungarian. At the embassy reception at which Eliza is passed off as nobility, Nepommuck, a former pupil of Higgins who makes his living as a translator,...
(The entire section is 1,742 words.)