Wednesday, September 4, 2019
The Character of Henry Higgins in Pygmalion Essay -- Character Analysi
Shaw has often been criticized for his inability to create well- developed round characters. His characters are usually seen as mere puppets propelled by the crisis of the plot or as mouthpieces for his socialist viewpoint. However in Pygmalion,, Shaw vindicates himself of these charges by the creation of rounded and life-like characters such as Higgins and Eliza. Clearly they are not authorial stooges. They have a peculiar quality that leaves a lasting imprint on the reader's memory. But there is some truth in the charge that Shaw created a mouthpiece for his own ideas and the character of Alfred Doolittle is a case in point. While Doolittle is undoubtedly a staple comic character, he is an artificial and flat one. Doolittle is there for a purpose - he serves Shaw's didactic needs. As such he is in the Dickens' vein of exaggeration. Doolittle's character is drawn for the sole purpose of ridiculing the Victorian philosophy of the "undeserving poor." One cannot imagine such a characte r existing in real life. On the whole, however, Pygmalion is peopled with imaginative and lively characters. While Higgins and Eliza are excellent, even the minor characters are well drawn. Henry Higgins Higgins is an extremely interesting character and the life of the play. Although the play's obvious concern is the metamorphosis of a common flower girl into a duchess, the development of Higgins' character is also important. The play isn't only Eliza's story. One also detects changes in Higgins or to be more precise he appears to the reader in a new light at the end. This is seen when he tells Eliza that he has grown accustomed to seeing her face and hearing her voice. This is not much of a sensitive display of emotions but it is quite diffe... ...ough the character of Higgins. It is obvious that Higgins's manners are not much better than those of the Covent Garden flower girl. In fact Higgins comes off much worse because of the fact that he has had all the civilizing benefits of wealth and education yet he is rude to the point of being boorish and ill mannered, is given to frequent inflammatory outbursts, and possesses abominable table manners. The fact that such an ill- mannered person is accepted by society as a "gentleman" provides Shaw with an opportunity to expose the shallowness and hypocrisy of such a society. Shaw thus critiques a society that views wealth and the ability to speak correctly as the constitutive criteria of a prescriptive gentleman. It is one of Shaw's master ironic strokes to make such a rude and boorish egotistical bully the main agent for transforming a common flower girl into a lady.