describe the appeareance of eliza

in pygmalion

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours

Shaw tells us that she "is not at all an attractive person," but he contradicts himself in the next act. In this case, mere physical appearance, dirtiness, and neglect destroy any kind of physical appeal.

"[Eliza] is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist. She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist]." (1.29)

Eliza, first described as "not at all attractive," has become incredibly desirable thanks to some nice clothing, jewelry, and a few months of training. Appearance is a changeable, and powerful, thing.

"Eliza, who is exquisitely dressed, produces an impression of such remarkable distinction and beauty as she enters that they all rise, quite flustered. Guided by Higgins's signals, she comes to Mrs. Higgins with studied grace." (3.91)

The contrast between Eliza's clothing and her face, between their elegance and her sadness, recalls the disconnect between Eliza's magnificent skills and her opportunities to employ them.

"Eliza opens the door and is seen on the lighted landing in opera cloak, brilliant evening dress, and diamonds, with fan, flowers, and all accessories. She comes to the hearth, and switches on the electric lights there. She is tired: her pallor contrasts strongly with her dark eyes and hair; and her expression is almost tragic." (4.1)