Summary of Pygmalion In London’s Covent backyard on a summer’s evening, a bunch of diverse individuals are gathered together to shield themselves from rain under the portico St. Paul’s Church. Clara and Mrs. Eynsford Hill are among the group, waiting for Freddy’s return in a cab. After he fails to find a taxi, he’s sent back out in search. As he departs, he crashes with a flower girl with a thick Cockney-accent, and he destroys many of the flowers.
The flower woman tries to get the elderly man to buy plants by pointing out his remarkable appearance. Colonel Pickering is the gentleman who refuses the purchase of the flowers. He does, however, give the girl money. People in the gang tell the lady not to take the cash because they know that someone is listening to her. The bystanders start to protest when the girl shouts loudly, “I am just the right girl. I’m.”
Professor Henry Higgins – a phonetics expert – is the observer. His focus is on determining the accents and places of birth for each individual. He says he can teach this “ragamuffin”, or flower woman, to speak with the sophistication of a duchess. Now, the older gentleman identifies as Colonel Pickering. This is the author who wrote a Sanskrit booklet and came to meet Henry Higgins. The two men then discuss their shared interest in the phonetics. The two are discussing Higgins’s experiments with Mrs. Pearce at Professor Higgins’ home the following morning.
Eliza Doolittle remembers how Higgins boasted about his ability to teach her to speak like a duchess. She has come for lessons to get a job in a florist shop. Pickering offers Higgins a wager. Higgins agrees in good spirit to make the wager. Mrs. Pearce is ordered to take away the girl, scrub it and burn its clothes. Eliza has no objections to him, so he takes her away. Eliza’s father arrives to blackmail Higgins. Higgins intimidates him so much that he asks him for 5 pounds and immediately gets rid of him.
Freddy Eynsford Hill’s mother and Clara Eynsford Hill are also gifts. It turns out that these are the people who we first saw beneath the portico at the beginning of the play. The visitors don’t know that Eliza had been the “ragamuffin-flower girl” that night. Eliza’s perfect English and her pedantic speech amuses everyone. Her description of the death of her Aunt is also shocking.
After Eliza leaves, Mrs. Higgins reveals that the girl’s public presentation is far from ready. Higgins and Pickering return to the house late at night. They are ecstatic with their success in passing Eliza off as a duchess to an ambassador at a backyard event. They are so proud they totally ignore Eliza. Infuriated Eliza finally throws a pair of slippers at Higgins. Eliza worries about what she will do after the experiment. Will she be thrown into the gutter again? What is her future fate? Higgins doesn’t see this as a problem. He tells her to go home after he has told her the garments she is carrying are hers. Higgins’ mother is shocked to find Eliza missing when Higgins visits her the next morning. After calling the police, he is shocked to learn that Eliza was upstairs.
While Eliza is waiting, Mr. Doolittle comes in and accuses Higgins for ruining his life. Higgins informed a wealthy man of Doolittle’s reputation as England’s best moralist. This man then left Doolittle an immense sum of cash to be used for moral reforms. His wife, who is a common-regulation person, is miserable because he has been forced into a middle-category morality. Eliza is invited to his marriage, another concession made to middle-category morality. Eliza accepts her father’s invitation to the wedding.
Higgins holds Eliza in place as the group prepares to leave. He then tries a little to convince her to return to Higgins’ condo. He insists that he is treating everyone equally. For him, there is no difference in the way he treats duchesses or flower ladies. Eliza has made up her mind to become independent, so she refuses Higgins’ invitation to stay in his apartment. Higgins admits to missing her and admiring her newly found independence. Eliza does not agree with him and leaves to attend the wedding of her father.
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