Nurture or Nature: The Gentleman Versus the Guttersnipe

Many individuals are adept at recognizing changes in their environment, others, and themselves. To these people, whatever the "change" might be-a new hairstyle, a new article of clothing, or an affected spoken dialect-rarely goes unnoticed. Sometimes, however, even these keen and perceptive individuals fail to recognize a most conspicuous and striking transformation. In George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, the protagonist, Henry Higgins, a noted master of language, fails to recognize a dramatic, emotional change in one of his "creations," the flower girl of Covent Garden Market. The conflict that exists between these characters is that the impregnable façade of social distinction and personal appearance masks the true reality of their natures; this classic man-versus- man conflict is the basis of the play.

An English gentleman of the Victorian period was supposed to be polite, patient, helpful, and above all, compassionate. None of these words describe the highly respected scholar and "gentleman," Henry Higgins. The eccentric, energetic, and short-tempered Professor Higgins dominates any situation in which he participates due to the directness of his barked commands. The perceptive reader...

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