How do the divisions of social classes become an issue in Act 1? How are class differences embodied in the people's different treatments of the flower girl? How is language related to class divisions?


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Besides introducing the major characters of the play, this act introduces socioeconomic class as a central theme of Pygmalion. Higgins's ability to pinpoint the location of origin of members of the crowd means not only that he can tell what part of England, or even what neighborhood of London, they are from, but also that he can probably guess fairly easily their socioeconomic status. In the early twentieth century, social mobility in Britain was slim to none, so the fact that Pickering's accent is audibly a Cambridge one (tying him to a very upper-class university) means that he is upper-class and likely to remain so. Conversely, Liza was born into Lisson Grove and, correspondingly, grew up speaking with what was considered a terrible accent. She is thus likely to remain poor not only because her family was poor, but also because everyone else can tell that she had a poor upbringing from the way that she speaks.