We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

What is the Importance of Alfred Doolittle to Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now

To the original middle-class Edwardian audience, Doolittle would be a very representational working-class figure. His name alone, ‘Doo-Little,’ epitomises the stereotypical middle-class view of the working class man, who doesn’t do as much as he could, therefore making him ‘undeserving. ‘ However, this view is challenged by Doolittle’s pride in being one of these ‘undeserving poor. ‘ He says he ‘means to go on being undeserving. ‘ Doolittle takes this social stigma as a compliment, which would have shocked his audience, but also created humour.

Doolittle’s values in life would also have challenged the middle-class perception of the working classes. His attitude to marriage and sex would have shocked the audience. Doolittle says of his mistress, ‘catch her marrying me! ‘ His mistress will not marry Doolittle, because that would give him dominion over her. This challenged the middle class view that marriage before sex was the natural order of things. As Doolittle says to Pickering, ‘it ain’t the natural way; it’s the middle class way. ‘ In some ways, Doolittle confirms the social stereotype that the poor are undeserving because they are lazy.

Doolittle only works when he has to, otherwise he ‘touches pretty nigh everyone for money. ‘ However his attitude to money once again challenges the middle class view. When Higgins offers him i?? 10 rather than i?? 5 he says that ‘five pounds is a lot of money, it makes a man feel prudent-like. ‘ This suggests how Doolittle sees large amounts of money as burdens, and later, after he has come into money, Doolittle calls his inheritance ‘this blasted three-thousand a year. ‘ This attitude was different to the middle class view that having money meant that you were comfortable and therefore happy.

These values and attitudes to life give Doolittle the role of a stereotypical working class man who manages to challenge all the stigmas that the middle class label him with. Shaw has used Doolittle’s attitudes to signpost the differences between the classes, and also to challenge the English class structure, and the stereotypical views of the middle classes. Doolittle has very strong views about what he calls ‘middle class morality. ‘ When asked by Pickering if he has any morals, Doolittle replies, ‘can’t afford’em. ‘ He goes on to say that middle class morality is ‘just an excuse for not giving me anything.

Doolittle feels that the middle class use their morality as a method of keeping the undeserving poor as poor as they are. Later, when Doolittle has been ‘shoved’ into the middle class, he says that middle class morality is, ‘having to live for others and not myself. ‘ His money has not made him happy, rather the opposite, and the middle class ‘morals forced upon him have cause him to have to give money to people who insist on working for him. This aspect of Doolittle’s role is important to the play because it would have made the middle class audience question whether or not their money made them happy.

Doolittle also acts as a foil for Higgins, they reinforce each other’s characteristics. For example when the pair first meet, Higgins speaks to Doolittle with the assured authority of a middle class gentleman, ‘what do you want, Doolittle? ‘ and Doolittle immediately assumes equality, ‘I want my daughter, that’s what I want, see? ‘ He is not at all subservient, as the middle class audience would expect him to be. His long speeches also suggest that he has taken centre-stage, which Higgins has held up until this point, further emphasising his assumption of equality.

Doolittle also reveals Higgins’ delight in unorthodox opinions, as Higgins offers him ten pounds in place of the original request for five. This aspect of Doolittle’s character is important to the play because it allows the audience to see the middle class versus working class conflict. Doolittle’s role as Eliza’s father allows Shaw to use him as a way to measure Eliza’s development as a lady. Where Eliza has used speech and manners to become a middle class lady, Doolittle has had money and affluence thrust onto him. This difference allows Shaw to make a distinction between the classes.

Doolittle’s story suggests that it is money and clothes that make a gentleman, rather than birth and breeding. This is important to the play because it provides a conflict to Eliza’s opinion that the difference between the two classes is not ‘how they speak, but how they are treated. ‘ Finally, Doolittle is a source of humour in the play. His values and attitudes create a paradoxical humour, because they are the polar opposite to what the middle classes would expect a working class man to think. His juxtaposition of ideas ‘I want a bit of amusement, ’cause I’m a thinking man,’ also has this effect.

His essential confidence and cheerfulness also creates a focus of humour. This humour is important to the play, because, essentially, Pygmalion is a romantic comedy. Alfred Doolittle’s role represents the working class man; however it also challenges the stereotypes that the middle class assumed about the working class. He acts as a signpost for class distinction, as he is also a foil for Higgins’ character. These functions are important to Pygmalion as a whole, because they allow Shaw to further explore the idea of class distinction, and continue to challenge the English middle class views.

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59