Matt Saperstein
3rd Hour Honors English 11
My Fair Lady

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My Fair lady is a phenomenal movie, produced in 1964, in which a Professor Higgins takes a bet that he can transform a dirty, and unladylike Eliza Doolitte into a woman in the span of six months. Although Professor Higgins only goal is to win the bet, Eliza Doolittle initially wants to become a respected woman, until she sees how Professor Higgins disregards her after he has won his bet. This movie is about much more than just a simple bet however, and truly shows the impact of phonetics on people's perception of one another. After spending months refining the flower girl, Professor Higgins realizes that he cannot live without her and that she has become a routine part of his day that he truly misses. We also see how his perception of women changes with his growing admiration for Eliza Doolittle.
This is a clip from the movie when Professor Higgins is speaking about the English Language and how the incorrect phonetics that the English use.

The Call: In "My Fair Lady", it is relatively clear what The Call is. After Eliza's flowers are knocked out of her hand, she begins to moan obnoxiously on the street and a man who is standing nearby, who happens to be phonetics professor Mr. Higgins, hears her and is disgusted at her intolerable noises. Mr. Higgins happens to run into Colonel Pickering, who he knows of previously, and invites Colonel Pickering to stay at his house. Later, Eliza shows up at Higgin's house to ask for phonetics lessons but Colonel Pickering steps into the conversation and takes Professor Higgins up on his bet that he had mentioned earlier, that he can transform Eliza into a woman in six months. It is at this point that The Call occurs, and Professor Higgins invites Eliza the opportunity to become a lady and Eliza accepts. This is the beginning of a long journey, and Eliza settles into the house, after a little bit of trouble.

The Threshold: In "My Fair Lady", the Threshold is not one single spot but the beginning of her transformation. As she settles into the house, she takes her first bath, her clothes are burnt, and she is given new clothes that are much nicer than anything she has ever worn. At this point, she has committed to staying in Professor Higgins' house temporarily and begins to learn her vowels all over again. Spending many hours in a room having her speech recorded, this is the "jumping off point" in her transformation. Although she becomes frustrated with her inability to pronounce her vowels correctly, Professor Higgins is able to calm her down and help her take her first steps towards acting like a lady.

The Challenges: In "My Fair Lady", the main challenge that we see is a test that Professor Higgins performs to see if Eliza is ready for Buckingham Palace. He dresses her in the finest of dresses and takes her to his mother's box at the horse races. Eliza is doing a relatively well job acting like a true lady until the horse races begin and she becomes very interested in a certain horse that she has a bet on. When the horse is doing poorly, Eliza yells "Move your blooming arse!" in front of a very elegant crowd and embarrasses herself and those around her. Although she is disappointed with herself, she does not give up on her journey to becoming a woman and learns from her mistakes. Professor Higgins realizes that although he still has work to do, he has brought her a long way and has done quite a great job thus far.
This is a great example of Professor Higgins teaching Eliza phonetics and finally Eliza catches on and is correctly able to say "The rain in spain stays mainly in the plane", a famous line from this great movie.

The Abyss: In "My Fair Lady", the greatest challenge of all is to test the bet that Professor Higgins made in the beginning of the movie. Here, he attempts to pass refined Eliza Doolittle off as a duchess at the Embassy Ball. Eliza Doolittle looks stunning as she enters the ball and it is evident that all the eyes are on her because she appears to be a princess in sorts. At times, it seems that she is going to be exposed, but Eliza handles herself very well and is truly a woman for the entire night. The prince at the Ball asks her to dance and she continues to impress. It is clear that she has left her old habits behind and is new, refined personal in many aspects. Following the ball, Eliza, Proffessor Higgins and Colonel Pickering return to Professor Higgins' and he and Pickering celebrate their accomplishment with drinks and laughs. However, Eliza begins to think about what is to become of her and her attitude changes instantly.

The Transformation: In "My Fair Lady", the Transformation truly occurs during and after the ball. The transformation of Eliza into a lady is finalized at the Embassy Ball when she passes as a duchess and Professor Higgins officially wins his bet. However, Eliza is upset at their boasting of "their success" and becomes enraged when thinking of her future. Professor Higgins walks into the room as she is on her knees and she turns around and throws his slippers at him. When she asks"what is to become of me? What am I fit for?", Professor Higgins replies "You might marry, you know." It is at this point that I believe the most powerful quote of the whole movie is said. Eliza says "I sold flowers, I didn't sell myself". This couldn't be a more powerful and true statement by Eliza. Before, she sold flowers to provide for herself, and Professor Higgins is advising her to marry and sell herself in a sense just to provide for herself." This statement alone is one of the reasons I am such a fan of this movie, because it is true for more than just Eliza, but much of society today.

The Revelation: In "My Fair Lady", the Revelation seems to be the scene in which Eliza Doolittle goes and visits Professor Higgins' mother. Although Eliza is now refined and much more ladylike, her perspective of others seems to not be altered drastically. However, when Eliza says " the difference between a lady and a flower girl isn't how she behaves, but how she is treated." This line solidifies the difference in the way Eliza views herself and is also very meaningful. In today's society, people believe it is what they do that defines them, but in contrast, it is how they are treated and seen by society that determines who they are. At this point, the viewer feels for Eliza and feels what she feels at that point in time. This is another scene in the movie that you can watch a thousand times.

The Atonement: In "My Fair Lady", the atonement is the part of the movie when Professor Higgins realizes that he misses Eliza. He sits in his chair, quite lonely, and listens to the tape of her when she first came into his house many months ago. He listens to it because he not only misses her, but he misses her voice. Just playing this tape gives him some comfort. Eliza realizes that although she hates to go back to him, she misses him too and returns to her house. She walks into his house and sees him listening to the tape of her. It is at this point that she is truly "at one" with her new self. They are both human around each other and that is what makes yearn for one another.

The Return: In "My Fair Lady", the Return takes place with Eliza and Professor Higgins. They both bring back a new perspective on one another and on society. Because of the journey they have gone through, they are both more knowledgeable and respected people. Going into the journey, Eliza was not a lady and spoke and acted quite poorly. Following the journey, she understands the English language and the way others perceive on another based on phonetics and manners. Also, Professor Higgins came into this journey an intelligent, but a little ignorant towards women and their role in society. Both Eliza and Professor Higgins underwent a transformation that changed their perspective not only of one another, but of themselves, in the witty and fantastic movie, My Fair Lady.

Character Archetypes

In "My Fair Lady", there are many archetypes that appear but certain ones we see are more common than others. To begin, Eliza in the beginning of the movie is a perfect example of the "Outcast" archetype. Eliza begins the movie selling flowers and living on the streets. When she is told that someone is taking down everything she says, she begins yelling and making horrid noises. When Professor Higgins hears this, he tells her she is an insult to the pillar in which she sits and that anyone making noises such as she does not deserve life. From the higher end of society, she is looked down upon and she tends to move from place to place. At one scene in the movie, Eliza is roaming around taking a vegetable from some of the other vendors without asking. They swat her hand away, but this occurs daily and does not stop Eliza from doing it again. I believe that this is the reason that we continue to always root for Eliza in a sense. Although she is an outcast of society, we want to see her succeed and rise in the ranks of society.
The next archetype we see is a slight variation of the "rags to riches" archetype. In one aspect, it is clear that Eliza comes from rags. She has little money and her father is continually nagging her money. Her father is an alcoholic who holds no job and the only thing he has ever have to is life. Her father does not mind fitting into this lower class because he does not need to worry about "middle class morality". However, "riches" would not be completely accurate for Eliza. She does not become rich in any sense but does become more ladylike and richer in knowledge of the english language. Although she does not physically have money, she has been given the necessary characteristics to become so. Professor Higgins has offered her a flower shop of her own and she knows that with her newly refined phonetics, she has the ability to achieve riches.
Thirdly, we see the "snob" archetype appear often in "My Fair Lady." In the first scene, we see a huge crowd of snobs walk out of some building disregarding anyone who they feel superior to. For example, Eliza is just trying to cross the street when a man bumps into her and knocks her flowers all over. The man does not help pick them up, and does not pay for the flowers that have been ruined by his actions. This is a common characteristic of a snob, having no feelings for those of a lower social class. At the horse races, we see the snobs again and how stiff each of them is. They only talk about the weather and how each of them are feeling, and it seems that they have no unique personality or characteristics.


Impact of Archetypes

The movie "My Fair Lady" uses the Hero's journey to gain the viewers interest from the very beginning. In the beginning of the movie, we see a girl on the street who is dirty, not ladylike, and has no knowledge of the true phonetics of the English Language. However, once the journey begins, we begin to root for Eliza to become a lady because we see certain characteristics that we relate with. We respect the fact that she is trying to make money to support herself and for that reason we hope Eliza becomes a lady. In the tough economic times, we often see people like Eliza trying to support themselves and their families. This shows that our society likes to see situations we can relate with because it gives them hope for the futures.
Secondly, "My Fair Lady" introduces another important message that Americans have let slip for hundreds of years. Americans do not realize the importance phonetics has on perception of one another. Americans are continuing to use more slang and their vocabulary shrinks at all times. Professor Higgins is right when he says "There are places where English completely disappears. Why, in America they haven't used it in years!" I believe this is true to a certain extent and can be seen every day. As society continues to use more technology, they are losing true phonetics and turning to slang more and more. Emotion is lost when sending messages using technology and phonetics fade away and become of no importance.