Of course, Eliza Doolittle isn't a statue. She's a poor, illiterate flower girl, with an accent that wouldn't allow her to achieve a better position. So, really, she might as well be a statue. She's non-existent in social circles, nothing more than a "draggle-tailed guttersnipe." Her transformation takes place with the help of Professor Henry Higgins, who takes her on as his linguistic pet project and then doesn't want to let her go.
Very early in the play, Higgins responds to Eliza's tears by telling her: "A woman who utters such disgusting and depressing noise has no right to be anywhere, no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible. Don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon."
The Audio Connection
The audio play of Shaw's "Pygmalion" was produced by L.A. Theatre Works for "Chicago on the Air." It features the voice of Shannon Cochran as Eliza Doolittle, Nicholas Pennell as Henry Higgins, and Laura Whyte as Mrs. Pearce. This production provides an amazing feel for this play.
If you've never heard the Cockney accent spoken, it's difficult to get a sense of the true scope of Eliza's transformation... Shannon Cochran's voice imparts volumes, as her rough accent gradually gives way to more refined speech. Along the way, Eliza learns to expect more from life and from the people around her. She tells Higgins: "Oh, you are a devil. You can twist the heart in a girl as easy as some could twist her arms to hurt her."
In the end, all she says that she wants is kindness, and perhaps some bit of human compassion. She tells Higgins, "I'm not dirt under your feet." Then, "I did it because we were pleasant together and I come—came—to care for you; not to want you to make love to me, and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like."
In the end, Eliza appears to have learned quite more than she would have like about society and human relationships. Higgins tells her, "If you can't stand the coldness of my sort of life, and the strain of it, go back to the gutter. Work 'til you are more a brute than a human being; and then cuddle and squabble and drink 'til you fall asleep. Oh, it's a fine life, the life of the gutter."
This play is one of Shaw's most popular plays. It has been adapted into the award-winning film and stage productions of Lerner and Loewe's musical, "My Fair Lady."