Concerning the social distinction in the play higgins

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Concerning the social distinction in the play, Higgins’ social behavior and conduct with Eliza are revealed with aristocratic touches. He still looks at her as his “experiment”. Higgins believes that how you treat someone is not important, as long as you treat everyone equally. The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another. (Act V, 98) Higgins presents this theory to Eliza, in hope of justifying his treatment of her. This theory would be fine IF Higgins himself lived by it. Henry Higgins, however, lives by a variety of variations of this philosophy. It is easily seen how Higgins follows this theory. He is consistently rude
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Azher Suleiman Saleh 22 towards Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, and his mother. His manner is the same to each of them, in accordance to his philosophy. The Higgins we see at the parties and in good times with Pickering is well mannered. This apparent discrepancy between Higgins’ actions and beliefs may not exist, depending on the interpretation of this theory. There are two possible translations of Higgins’ philosophy. It can be viewed as treating everyone the same all the time or treating everyone equally at a particular time. It is obvious that Higgins does not treat everyone equally all the time, as witnessed by his actions when he is in one of his states (as Mrs. Higgins’ parlor maid calls it). (Act V, 83) The Higgins that we see in Mrs. Higgins’ parlor is not the same Higgins we see at the parties. When in ‘the state’ Henry Higgins wanders aimlessly around the parlor, irrationally moving from chair to chair, highly unlike the calm Professor Higgins we see at the ball. Higgins does not believe that a person should have the same manner towards everyone all the time, but that a person should treat everyone equally at a given time (or in a certain situation). When he is in ‘one of those states’ his manner is the same towards everyone; he is equally rude and disrespectful to all. Yet when minding his manners, as he does at the parties, he can be a gentleman. If the second meaning of Higgins’ theory, that he treats everyone equally at a particular time, is taken as his philosophy, there is one major flaw. Higgins never respects Eliza, no matter who is around. Eliza confronts Higgins’ social distinction towards her by telling him that, “He [Pickering] treats a flower girl as duchess.” Higgins, replying to Eliza, “And I treat a duchess as a flower girl.” (Act V, 97) In an attempt to justify this, Higgins adds, “The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you ever heard me treat anyone else better.” (Act V, 98) Eliza does not answer this question but the spectator knows that Higgins has treated others better than Eliza. At the parties, for example, Higgins is a gentleman to the hosts and other guest, but still treats Eliza as his experiment. Higgins could never see the ‘new’ modified Eliza. He only saw the dirty flower girl that had become his
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