Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic
MLA

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Pygmalion Study Guide." Course Hero. 8 Sep. 2016. Web. 13 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Pygmalion/>.

In text

(Course Hero)

APA

Bibliography

Course Hero. (2016, September 8). Pygmalion Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Pygmalion/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)

Chicago

Bibliography

Course Hero. "Pygmalion Study Guide." September 8, 2016. Accessed November 13, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Pygmalion/.

Footnote

Course Hero, "Pygmalion Study Guide," September 8, 2016, accessed November 13, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Pygmalion/.

Pygmalion | Symbols

Share
Share

Flower Shop

The flower shop represents the dream that drives Eliza to Higgins's laboratory in Act 2: "I want to be a lady in a flower shop stead of selling at the corner of Tottenham Court Road," she tells Higgins and Pickering. "But they won't take me unless I can talk more genteel." It is the dream for which she is willing to transform herself. Later, when she has achieved her goal and has the speech and manners of a lady, she anxiously asks Higgins, "What am I fit for? What have you left me fit for?" Her situation is as Mrs. Higgins predicted in Act 3: Eliza has been given "the manners and habits that disqualify a fine lady from earning her own living." Though Higgins suggests that the old idea of a florist's shop might be the answer, Eliza may have outgrown that particular dream and will have to rethink her future.

Clothing

Throughout the play, clothing reflects the social status of characters. For example, Higgins's slippers represent his class as well as his disregard for Eliza. As a symbol, clothing represents Eliza's metamorphosis from flower girl to lady, and Doolittle's rise from dustman to gentleman. When Eliza is introduced in Act 1, she is "not at all an attractive person." Her sailor hat of black straw is coated in London soot. She wears a long, worn black coat and a brown skirt with a coarse apron. She has worn-down boots, and in general she is quite dirty. In Act 2, as a step toward her transformation, Higgins's housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, burns Eliza's old clothes and orders her a new wardrobe. By Act 4, Eliza the lady presents a stark contrast to Eliza the flower girl. On the night of her triumph, she is clothed in an "opera cloak, brilliant evening dress, and diamonds, with fan, flowers, and all accessories." Her clothing reflects her thorough and willing transformation, inside and out.

Eliza's dustman father, Doolittle, illustrates that a change of clothing may alter other people's perceptions, but those looks can be deceiving. When he makes an entrance in Act 2, he is "clad in the costume of his profession" and "has a professional flavor of dust about him." He is happy and proud to be one of "the undeserving poor." By Act 5, his unlooked-for rise in wealth is apparent when he arrives at the home of Mrs. Higgins wearing a "fashionable frock-coat, with white waistcoat and grey trousers ... dazzling silk hat, and patent leather shoes." He appears every inch a gentleman and is announced as such by the parlor-maid. However, his new look is misleading. While his social standing has risen, his only gentlemanly attributes are those that have been forced upon him as "middle class morality claims its victim."

Mirror

In Act 2, Eliza is given a bath for the first time in memory. Shocked that the procedure requires removing all her clothes, she is even more shocked to find a mirror in the bathroom. She doesn't know "which way to look" and finally hangs a towel over it. However, this represents the moment when Eliza unguardedly "sees" herself as she is—dirty, disheveled, and far from ladylike in her personal habits. The bath proves to be a treat, and the positive effects are immediately evident. Cloaked in a blue cotton kimono, she emerges looking like "a dainty and exquisitely clean young Japanese lady." Her own father, who has come to see what Higgins is up to, fails to recognize her at first, and then comments, "Well, I never thought she'd clean up as good looking as that, Governor. She's a credit to me, ain't she?" Eliza's glimpse in the mirror reveals to her the need for a change, and the results of the bath prove that change is possible. Thus, the mirror symbolizes self-awareness and identity.

Questions for Symbols

View all
paraphrase: Having soft water saves you money. According to a study by the Battelle Institute, you use up to 75% less soap and fewer cleaning products with soft water. Considering the soap and deterge
Give brief grooming tips for men in interviews. What they should look like.
Visit several public buildings and evaluate their interior design. Document color choices and flow in space that provide the overall feel of the interior and reflect the purpose of that building. Revi
Work.. Communication Skills in the Workplace Employers Talk Back By Nancy Martin-Young Wake Technical Community College Fifteen years ago, the typical college graduate looked forward to a 9 to 5 job w
Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Pygmalion? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!