Pygmalion: Higgins' Philosophy

This essay has a total of 720 words and 4 pages.

Pygmalion: Higgins' Philosophy


Professor Higgins is seen throughout Pygmalion as a very rude man. While one may expect a
well educated man, such as Higgins, to be a gentleman, he is far from it. Higgins believes
that how you treated 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.

-Higgins, Act V Pygmalion.

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 towards Eliza,
Mrs. Pearce, and his mother. His manner is the same to each of them, in accordance to his
philosophy. However the Higgins we see at the parties and in good times with Pickering is
well mannered. This apparent discrepancy between Higgins' actions and his word, 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 of the time or treating everyone equally at a particular time.


It is obvious that Higgins does not treat everyone equally all of the time, as witnessed
by his actions when he is in "one of his states" (as Mrs. Higgins' parlor maid calls it).
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 of 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,
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