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Act 5 Summary
The setting shifts to Mrs. Higgins's home once more. Her maid announces that the professor and Colonel Pickering are there. The men are calling the police. Henry's mother tells the maid to tell Liza to stay upstairs until summoned.
Henry is distraught and tells his mother that Liza did not sleep in her bed last night. She returned early this morning, unbeknownst to him, to get her belongings, and Henry is angry that Mrs. Pearce did not tell him. Henry confesses he does not know his appointments without Liza, and Pickering enters to discuss the conversation with the police. Mrs. Higgins tries to imply that this is not a police matter. She tells them that they are treating Liza as if she were a thief or a lost article.
It is during their conversation that the maid enters to introduce Mr. Doolittle. Based on his appearance, the maid believes this visitor to be a gentleman. Henry does not think it is Liza's father, and he hopes to secure some information about Liza from this new relative.
Liza's dad enters the room dressed as a gentleman and accuses Henry of making him look like this. Pickering asks if Liza bought Alfred these clothes of gentility, but Doolittle tells him she did not. Henry inquires as to Liza's whereabouts, and Doolittle responds that he does not know where she is, and isn't Higgins the lucky one for having lost a woman.
Doolittle then tells his listeners why he feels Henry has "'Tied me up and delivered me into the hands of middle class morality.'" It seems that Henry wrote Ezra D. Wannafeller, founder of Moral Reform Societies worldwide, telling him that Alfred Doolittle, a garbage collector, was "'the most original moralist at present in England.'" Wannafeller died but left in his will "'a share in his predigested Cheese Trust worth three thousand a year on condition that I lecture for his Wannafeller Moral Reform World League as often as they ask me up to six times a year.'" Being an American, Wannafeller did not care about Doolittle's low class existence, so Doolittle immediately became someone of interest to Wannafeller.
Liza's father does not mind the lecturing but it is living a middle class life to which he objects. Now that he has money, he has more relatives, lawyers and doctors, all wanting some of his wealth. He used to get money from anyone he could, but now he is expected to give it out to others. According to Alfred, "'I have to live for others and not for myself: that's middle class morality.'" Doolittle is afraid he will soon become one of Higgins's students requiring betterment through speech, since his new economic status will put him in better social circles.
Mrs. Higgins tells Mr. Doolittle that he does not have to accept his newfound wealth, but he admits that he does not have the strength to turn it down. He already has to dye his hair to keep his job, and he cannot keep working forever. No, he knows he has to accept it at his age.
Professor Higgins feels he has paid Doolittle properly for the ownership of Liza, five pounds. Doolittle is relieved that Higgins still wants Liza because he sees her as one more relative trying to drain him financially. Having settled that, Higgins returns to wondering where she is. His mother tells Henry that Liza is upstairs, which astonishes him, and he tells his mother that he will go get her.
Mrs. Higgins then questions her son and Pickering as to their treatment of Liza on the previous night. At first both men agree that they said and did nothing offensive, but. Mrs. Higgins tells them that they gloated the previous night without recognition to Liza's talent and development. The professor's mother sees Liza as a sensitive woman who has worked very hard for not only her own social improvement but also their acceptance and respect, yet they shared with her last night that they were "'bored with the whole thing.'" Pickering begins to understand the complexity of Liza's feelings and situation, but Higgins continues to see the girl as ungrateful.
Mrs. Higgins tells Henry that Liza will not return to his home, and asks him to be on his best behavior if the girl comes down. Henry agrees and says, "'Let us put on our best Sunday manners for this creature that we picked out of the mud.'" Alfred defends his daughter at this point and asks some consideration for her. His wishes are momentarily respected, but then he is asked to go onto the balcony. Mrs. Higgins believes Liza could be overwhelmed by Henry's arrogance and Alfred's newfound wealth.
When Liza enters the room, Pickering admires this beautiful, poised young woman. Henry, who has been told to stop whistling by his mother, is ready for battle with Liza. She engages in pleasantries and Henry will have no part of it. He throws at her the belief that he is the one who gave her all the social skills. The agitated Henry boasts that he has "'created this thing,'" but he knows who she really is.
Liza will not be defeated and continues to be gracious, especially in thanking Colonel Pickering for his training in good manners and respectable language. Liza acknowledges that she never would have been able to behave and react acceptably if she followed Higgins's example. He swears, is hotheaded and impulsive. She thanks Pickering for calling her Miss Doolittle when she first arrived at Higgins's home. She explains that it was Pickering's respect for her that instilled respect in her. Higgins, on the other hand, will always see her as a flower girl and respond accordingly.
It is time for Alfred Doolittle to make his presence known to his daughter. He touches her shoulder, and she shrieks like in days of the not too distant past. Higgins mocks her sound and her quick retreat to those patterns when shocked. Alfred tells everyone he is about to marry Liza's "stepmother," and requests his daughter join them at the church. Doolittle also invites Pickering, who kindly accepts, and Mrs. Higgins says she would like to join them as well. Doolittle knows her presence will flatter and console his bride, a woman who has to be respectable now as part of that middle class mindset. Mrs. Higgins leaves to prepare for the wedding.
As they prepare to leave, Pickering asks Liza's forgiveness and inquires if she will come back to Wimpole Street. She responds that she doubts her father will allow it, but Alfred compliments the men in that there were two of them, so one will always support the other in whatever is said. They can also claim one chaperoned all the time. Doolittle wishes he had thought of that long ago. With that, Pickering and Doolittle leave to go to the church.
Liza and Henry are alone now for the first time since she left his home, so she darts for the balcony. Henry follows her, so she moves to the door where Henry awaits her. He asks her if she has had enough, and Liza tells him she will not return with him to wait on him. He responds that he never asked her to come back, but if she did, he would not change. Henry believes he treats everyone equally rudely, and Liza compares the professor to her father, who would continue to treat her abusively.
In a moment of surprising tenderness, Henry says to Liza, "'You never asked yourself, I suppose, whether I could do without you.'" Liza is afraid Higgins is manipulating her because Mrs. Pearce told her that she wanted to leave several times, but the professor worked his charm on her. Higgins elaborates on her possible return. He tells Liza that he does not want her to fetch for him, as that is no relationship. He would rather she return "'for the sake of good fellowship.'"
Liza tells Higgins she wishes she were left to sell her flowers because, like her father, Higgins is responsible for taking away her freedom, her independence. Henry offers to adopt her with a settlement of money for her, and then offers that Pickering marries her. Liza tells the professor that Freddy has been writing her and that he loves her. Higgins is angered, but Liza tells him "'every girl has a right to be loved.'" He challenges her that she just wants him to fawn over her, but Liza is clear when she tells him that she just wants some respect from him. She tells him honestly that she could have manipulated many a rich man sexually, given what she has learned on her own, but she has grown fond of Pickering and Higgins and wants some kindness returned to her. Henry agrees that theirs is not a sexual relationship, but finishes by calling her a fool.
He further challenges her to return to her former life and suffer the hardships of it. If she is lucky, she will get a rich man and blackened eyes. The cold, the violence, the stench and the strain cannot conceivably be preferable to a life around Henry Higgins. Liza agrees that she cannot go back to such a life; she has only the two gentlemen as friends and cannot live with someone low. She tells him she will marry Freddy when he can support her. This outrages Higgins because he cannot stand to see "his masterpiece" wasted on Freddy.
Eliza next proposes to Higgins that she become a teacher of phonetics, offering herself as assistant to another phoneticist. This infuriates Henry and he puts his hands on Liza. Seeing that she has finally broken through on some level to this man, she continues with her assault on the professor. She tells him that she will take out an ad, boasting her success in the transformation and offering the same assistance to wannabe duchesses. Higgins rather enjoys this feisty girl and again flatters himself on his achievement in her new persona. He concludes that she is in fact ready to take her place with the other two bachelors.
Henry's mother returns, ready to attend Doolittle's wedding. Liza asks if Henry will attend the wedding as well, but Mrs. Higgins explains that he cannot behave himself in church and will not be coming. Liza says goodbye to the professor, telling him she will not be seeing him again, and he smugly gives her an order of food and clothing she is to get. She tells him to purchase them himself as she leaves. Mrs. Higgins says she will get the items for his son, but with a high degree of certainty, Henry tells her Liza will get them. Henry Higgins is left alone as he "'chuckles; and disports himself in a highly self-satisfied manner.'"
Act 5 Analysis
This is a very interesting act as the thematic thrust is further conveyed and characterization continues to be developed. Higgins is obviously distraught at Liza's absence. . He feels lost without her, as he cannot keep his appointments straight. As upset as Henry is, it is Liza's father who enters the room downtrodden and angry with Henry. He resents Henry's intervention in Alfred getting middle class morality. Alfred sees having to live a middle class life as an infringement on his personal liberties. Doolittle now feels prisoner to middle class conventions and can no longer enjoy a life free of worries, obligations and expectations. Shaw does make the point here that the further one climbs the social ladder, the more one's freedom to be oneself is compromised.
When Liza finally confronts Henry at his mother's, she is exemplary in her self-control and deportment. She graciously thanks Pickering but Higgins remains aloof and arrogant. In thanking Pickering, Liza makes the statement that "'…from you that I learnt really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isn't it?'" His calling her "Miss Doolittle" started her education. She felt some self-respect, and says, "'the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she's treated.'" From the mouth of Eliza Doolittle comes the dominant theme in Pygmalion.
In keeping with the theme of class distinction and its pitfalls in Elizabethan society, Liza adds dimension to the playwright's assessment of a gentleperson. Through the dialogue between Liza and Henry, readers/viewers see the professor is one entrenched in upper class mentality. For Henry, that mentality gives him the right to be course and rude. He is also educated and that gives him an air of superiority and arrogance. He continues to refer to Liza as a "thing" completely reconfigured to his own specifications. He is the Pygmalion to Galatea, another thing, a statue.
When Alfred enters, he bemoans the fact that he must now live by middle class morality, and he is getting married. He laments the loss of his freedom and blames the professor for her newfound wealth. Ironically, these two gentlemen, Doolittle and Higgins, are both now prisoners to some form of morality. Doolittle must live a respectable life in his new socio-economic class and Higgins must now grow to accept what he has done to Liza and his dependency on her. Some form of mentality imprisons both men. Likewise, Liza is now less independent. By improving her status, Higgins, too, has imprisoned the daughter. She is now more dependent on others for her wellbeing since she cannot go back to selling flowers.
This is not the only issue between the professor and Liza covered in this play. Gender roles have pervaded throughout the text. Higgins has seen Liza as a possession. She is also seen that way when her father sells her to the professor. Now, as Higgins tries to entice her to return to his home, Henry again barters for her. This is not what Liza wants. In one of the most profound quotes in the play, encompassing social and gender themes, she says, "'Every girl has a right to be loved.'"
Again, Liza offers some of the most poignant lines in the play while talking about Freddy. Higgins wonders if Freddy can make anything of Liza, but Liza counters with, "'Perhaps I could make something of him. But I never thought of us making anything of one another, and you never think of anything else. I only want to be natural.'" Liza wants to enjoy a healthy relationship where man and woman can be themselves and not remake each other, profound wisdom that transcends generations and classes.
In keeping with his characterization, Henry again refers to Liza as his possession, his accomplishment, his trophy, his "masterpiece." She cannot tolerate such cruel degradation and proposes Freddy as an alternative to her present situation. Freddy, though having lived as a gentleman is another generation and open to new ideas and change. Higgins, on the other hand, is from the old order where ideas are firmly rooted. He is not as open to social mobility as a younger man is; he will always see Liza as a flower girl, and she knows this. She does not see herself returning to his domination.
Shaw concludes his work in his "Epilogue." He tells what happens after Doolittle's wedding. He states that it is likely that the heroine of the romance would marry the hero, but this would not be in keeping with the characterizations. That Liza is remade is plausible, but that she would marry Higgins is unthinkable. Anyone with any knowledge of human nature and women know this to be the case.
When Liza told Higgins that she would not marry him, she was not baiting him; she meant it after careful thought. She knew Higgins was unfit to marry: only a woman in need of financial security and threatened by age would marry this confirmed old bachelor. Eliza, being young and perhaps idealistic, saw more choices. She did want a man too close to his mother, who set quite a high standard. Even if Mrs. Higgins were to die, Higgins would find literature or his work to channel his love and passion. With Henry an unlikely marital prospect, that left Freddy.
Freddy Eynsford Hill was a gentleman. He dressed nicely, had respectability and worshiped Liza. He knew her background and still loved her unabashedly. In fact, Freddy is likely to wait on Liza as she did Higgins. Even though they married, life was not easy for the couple. Freddy was poor and lacked education and training to secure a good job. Freddy kept up his appearance and manner in hopes of impressing some prospective wealthy patron, and Mrs. Eynsford Hill had hoped her son would marry well. He did just that.
Eliza's father quickly rose to social acceptance in the upper class. The middle class rejected him, but the wealthy were amused by him and courted his company. However, he could not support his own lifestyle and Liza's, so she considered other options. Liza even thought she might return to Wimpole Street with Freddy, but Higgins made it clear to her that Freddy was worthless, "'an extra piece of bedroom furniture.'" Eliza thought she might teach phonetics, but Higgins told her she was not ready. She respected his and Pickering's advice more after her marriage than before.
The Colonel finally aided the struggling couple. The flower shop idea arose again and Pickering funded it for her. Higgins, of course, again saw Freddy as useless, "'an ideal errand boy.'" It just so happened that Freddy had thought of some commercial enterprise as well, but his was more in the line of Liza selling tobacco and he selling newspapers. Freddy was hesitant to broach this subject with Liza for fear of reprisal on his sister who was seeking matrimony with someone of substance in social circles. With that concern and the appearance of working class, the couple feared telling Mrs. Eynsford Hill about the venture and risk suffering her wrath, but that was not the case.
It seems that Clara bridged the way for their news. Clara, for some time, had been quite a snob keeping up the appearances of someone she was not. "She was, in short, an utter failure, an ignorant, incompetent, pretentious, unwelcome, penniless, useless little snob," according to Shaw. She was mocked, resented, ignored and excluded, but it was reading the work of H.G. Wells that gave her access to new people and new experiences. She was no longer laughed at but rather with, and when given the possibility of meeting Wells through employment, she took it. She accepted a position in a furniture shop, so Liza and Freddy were not the first to approach Mrs. Eynsford Hill regarding such work.
Liza and Freddy started their business venture with the help of the Colonel and the derision of the professor. The young couple was not adept at business and attended school to improve their skills. That was an arduous task and required Higgins' assistance in teaching Liza to write. He did so begrudgingly, and with time, the business took off. Unfortunately, however, "It is true that there was not quite fair play between them and their competitors in trade."
Liza continued to intrude in Higgins's housekeeping. She never got over the night she won the professor's bet, and continued to browbeat him in everything. Pickering would even ask her to relent some times, and she did. Liza knew the professor did not need her but, according to Shaw, "she has a sense, too, that his indifference is deeper than the infatuation of commoner souls." He continues to fascinate her, and she imagines him with her on a desert island, having sex "like any common man." Even if she has this fantasy, the truth is that she does not like him or her father. She does, however, like her husband and Pickering.
Shaw's concluding words make reference to Galatea and her not liking Pygmalion, her sculptor. He is too much of a deity and she too respectful of that ever to be anything more than his creation.
|The Project Gutenberg ebook of George Bernard Shaw, by Gilbert K. Chesterton||Chakats © Bernard Doove/Chakat Goldfur used with permission|
|Sallie Bernard* Albert Enayati, B. S., Ch. E., M. S. M. E. Heidi Roger||Shaw College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong|
|Compiled and edited by Tony Shaw, Program Chair, Wilshire Conferences, Inc||This report compiled and edited by Tony Shaw, Program Chair, Wilshire Conferences|
|James P. Chambers1,*, Bernard P. Arulanandam1, Leann L. Matta2, Alex Weis3, and James J. Valdes4||George R. Jackson, M. D., Ph. D|
|George R. Jackson, M. D., Ph. D||George C. Kyriakos Journalism & Society|