Eliza Doolittle's Final Monologues from 'Pygmalion'

An Analysis of Miss Doolittle's Two Very Different Sides

UK - Bernard Shaw's 'Pygmalion' in London
Tim Pigott-Smith (as Henry Higgins) and Michelle Dockery (as Eliza Doolittle) perform in the production of Bernard Shaw's play 'Pygmalion,' at the Old Vic Theatre, in London. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

In the final scene of George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion," the audience is surprised to learn that this is not the fairytale romance that the entire play has been building up to. Eliza Doolittle may be the 'Cinderella' of the story, but Professor Henry Higgins is no Prince Charming and he cannot bring himself to commit to her.

The fiery dialogue also transforms the play from comedy to drama as Eliza's monologues are filled with passion. We see that she really has come a long way from that innocent flower girl that first appeared on stage. She is a young woman with a mind of her own and new-found opportunities in front of her though she does not quite know where to go now.

We also see her slip back into her Cockney grammar as her temper flares. Though she catches and corrects herself, these are final reminders of her past as we wonder about her future.

Eliza Expresses Her Desires

Prior to this, Higgins has run through Eliza's options for the future. It seems to him that her best prospect is to find a man unlike the "confirmed old bachelors like me and the Colonel." Eliza explains the relationship she desired from him. It’s a tender scene that almost warms the Professor’s heart despite himself.

ELIZA: No I don't. That's not the sort of feeling I want from you. And don't you be too sure of yourself or of me. I could have been a bad girl if I'd liked. I've seen more of some things than you, for all your learning. Girls like me can drag gentlemen down to make love to them easy enough. And they wish each other dead the next minute. (much troubled) I want a little kindness. I know I'm a common ignorant girl, and you a book-learned gentleman; but I'm not dirt under your feet. What I done (correcting herself) what I did was not for the dresses and the taxis: I did it because we were pleasant together and I come--came--to care for you; not to want you to make love to me, and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like.

When Eliza Realizes the Truth

Unfortunately, Higgins is a permanent bachelor. When he is incapable of offering affection, Eliza Doolittle stands up for herself in this powerfully feisty monologue.

ELIZA: Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You can't take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you. And I can be civil and kind to people, which is more than you can. Aha! That's done you, Henry Higgins, it has. Now I don't care that (snapping her fingers) for your bullying and your big talk. I'll advertize it in the papers that your duchess is only a flower girl that you taught, and that she'll teach anybody to be a duchess just the same in six months for a thousand guineas. Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself!

Does Civility Equal Kindness?

Higgins has readily admitted that he is fair in his treatment of everyone. If he is harsh with her, she should not feel bad because he is equally harsh most people he meets. Eliza jumped on this and the realization forces a final decision from her, at least when it comes to Higgins.

This also makes the audience wonder about the commentary on wealth and civility in relation to kindness and compassion. Was Eliza Doolittle as kind when she was living in 'the gutter'? Most readers would say yes, yet it draws a stark contrast to Higgins' excuse of unbiased severity.

Why does a higher class of society come with less kindness and compassion? Is that really a 'better' way of life? It seems that Eliza struggled with these questions herself.

Where is the 'Happily Ever After' Ending?

The big question that "Pygmalion" leaves the audience with is: Do Eliza and Higgins ever get together? Shaw did not initially say and he intended for the audience to decide for themselves.

The play ends with Eliza saying goodbye. Higgins calls after her with, of all things, a shopping list! He is absolutely positive that she will return. In reality, we do not know what happens to the two characters of "Pygmalion."

This confounded early directors of the play (and the "My Fair Lady" movie) because many felt that the romance should have blossomed. Some had Eliza return with the necktie from Higgins' shopping list. Others had Higgins toss Eliza a bouquet or follow her and beg her to stay.

Shaw intended to leave the audience with an ambivalent conclusion. He wanted us to imagine what might happen because each of us will have a different perspective based on our own experiences. Maybe the romantic sort would have the two live happily ever after while those jaded by love would be happy to see her go out in the world and enjoy her independence.

The directors' attempts to change Shaw's ending prompted the playwright to pen an epilogue:

"The rest of the story need not be shewn in action, and indeed, would hardly need telling if our imaginations were not so enfeebled by their lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the ragshop in which Romance keeps its stock of 'happy endings to misfit all stories." 

Though he also gave arguments as to why Higgins and Eliza were incompatible, he did write a version of what happened after the final scene. One feels that it was done with reluctance and it's almost a shame to pass along this ending, so if you want to retain your own version, it would be best to stop reading here (you really will not miss much).

In his 'finale,' Shaw tells us that Eliza does indeed marry Freddy and the couple opens a flower shop. Their life together is filled with dreariness and not too much success, a far cry from those romantic thoughts of the play's directors.

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Bradford, Wade. "Eliza Doolittle's Final Monologues from 'Pygmalion'." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/eliza-doolittles-final-monologues-from-pygmalion-2713650. Bradford, Wade. (2020, August 27). Eliza Doolittle's Final Monologues from 'Pygmalion'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eliza-doolittles-final-monologues-from-pygmalion-2713650 Bradford, Wade. "Eliza Doolittle's Final Monologues from 'Pygmalion'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eliza-doolittles-final-monologues-from-pygmalion-2713650 (accessed March 29, 2023).