Today we’re paging through a classic read that got its own Broadway musical starring Julie Andrews and film adaptation based both on the musical and by extension the novel starring Audrey Hepburn. This week we’re reading Pygmalion.
The Story: “Liza” Doolittle may not have much, but she knows her place in the world – even if that place is only as a lowly flower girl on the streets. When an arrogant gentleman named Henry Higgins presumes to tell Eliza that she’s not as high a human being as he, she makes up her mind that she’s going to turn his phonetic brilliance on himself by demanding lessons to turn her into a lady worthy of a respectable job. Though it may be a difficult job, Colonel Pickering and Henry Higgins decide to take the challenge. It may be more difficult than they’ve thought. Henry Higgins is hardly a gentleman and Eliza Doolittle is still, at the end of the day, a flower girl. Written almost like a play, Pygmalion is a story of a woman’s journey as she comes into her own and leaves the world she knew behind.
My Thoughts: I was surprised by the end of this story. *Spoiler alert* In the musical and film My Fair Lady, Eliza returns to Henry Higgins. This ending always bothered me personally because it made no sense that Eliza would return to someone who is as much of a jerk as Professor Higgins. In Pygmalion, Liza decides to make a life for herself with the young gentlemen Freddy. As she puts it, “Freddy loves me: that makes him king enough for me.” In addition, I find it somewhat quaint and charming that the worst language to be found in the book is “bloody” and “d***ed”. This is one of the books that definitely needs to be read in its historical context and the version of Pygmalion that I read had an excellent portion about the author George Bernard Shaw that I recommend readers finding out about.
Parental Advisories: This is a book I’d advise waiting to hand off to your kids as it does include some language (d***n and h***). Eliza and Henry Higgins also briefly mention being a “virtuous woman”. Parents who understand the context can choose whether they feel comfortable letting their child read the book or not.