The Character of Henry Higgins in Pygmalion Essay

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Shaw has often been criticized for his inability to create well- developed round characters. His characters are usually seen as mere puppets propelled by the crisis of the plot or as mouthpieces for his socialist viewpoint. However in Pygmalion,, Shaw vindicates himself of these charges by the creation of rounded and life-like characters such as Higgins and Eliza. Clearly they are not authorial stooges. They have a peculiar quality that leaves a lasting imprint on the reader's memory. But there is some truth in the charge that Shaw created a mouthpiece for his own ideas and the character of Alfred Doolittle is a case in point. While Doolittle is undoubtedly a staple comic character, he is an artificial and flat one. Doolittle is there …show more content…
Apart from being a professor of phonetics, he has a deep reverence for literature and fancies himself as a poet. In all seriousness he thinks highly of "the treasures of (his) Mittonic mind." He is self-indulgent, whimsical, and ill mannered when it comes to interacting with other people.

Higgins is not a man given to extravagant aesthetic tastes. The walls in the Wimpole street laboratory are not adorned by paintings but by engravings. His passionate fondness for sweets and chocolates stands out in comic contrast to his seriousness and austere mode of living. Higgins' most prominent characteristic is his restlessness and the consequent inability to sit still. He is constantly tripping and stumbling over something. For instance, in Act Three, Shaw writes in the stage directions that Higgins's sudden arrival at his mother's at home is accompanied by minor disasters - "He goes to the divan, stumbling into the fender and over the fire-irons on his way; extricating himself with muttered impatiently on the divan that he almost breaks it". These quirks and oddities of his character contribute to the laughs in the play and place Higgins in the tradition of the comic hero.

It is obvious that simply as a professor of phonetics Higgins would not have been very humorous. Thus Shaw makes Higgins obsessed with his profession. His devotion to phonetics is so engrossing that it leaves little time or inclination for anything else.