In Act 3, Pickering and Higgins try to outdo each other in telling Mrs. Higgins about Eliza and her abilities What does their behavoir indicate about them?


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Act III also brings a sobering touch of realism back to the play. Standing alone, the bet between Pickering and Higgins seems amusing, worthwhile on humanitarian grounds, and intellectually and practically challenging. Taken in the context of society more generally, a stance which Mrs. Higgins emphasizes, the process is potentially dangerous. The primary function of genteel ladies at this time was to secure a safe and lucrative marriage for themselves, a fact of which we are reminded as Clara eyes Higgins. There is a sense these men are patronizing Liza if not mocking her. Because of her background and lack of pedigree, she is unmarriageable, no matter how charming she may seem. Changing her accent and manner of dress ultimately will cause confusion because it will come out that she is taking part in a slice of society of which she cannot become fully a part.