Alfred Doolittle’s Lower Class Representation in Pygmalion Realist author George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion challenges England’s upper class to realize the pointlessness of their flamboyant lifestyle and pokes fun at this society. Shaw writes to expose the differences in the lifestyles of the social classes and how different characters react to their status. Shaw uses Alfred Doolittle and his social status to depict a character that freely accepts his status and his reaction to eventually moving up social classes. Because of his dislike of “middle class morality”, appreciation of and the freedom that accompanies his lower social status, and his eventual climb into the upper class, Doolittle presents a desire to remain in “undeserving poverty.” Doolittle, throughout the play, demonstrates a dislike for “middle class morality.” Before he becomes rich, Doolittle defines middle class morality as “an excuse of never giving me anything.” Doolittle represents a dislike for middle class morality and wishes for “cheerfulness and a song” like those in the upper classes. Doolittle believes “middle class morality claims its victims.” Eventually Doolittle becomes a “victim” when he is given money to lecture. Doolittle becomes apart of the upper class but dislikes being viewed as a member of this society.
Doolittle says that he believes lower class men look at him and envy him. Doolittle says he, in fact, will look down to the lower class “helpless and envy them.” Doolittle does not like the upper classes and “middle class morality.” Throughout the play, Doolittle presents characteristics that suggest he accepts his current lower class social status and enjoys the freedom associated with his status. When asked by Colonial Pickering if he has no morals, Doolittle Stokes 2 establishes his status and distance from upper class characteristics by replying, “I can’t afford them, Governor.” Doolittle comments to Henry Higgins that “undeserving poverty is my line.” Doolittle represents an individual who lives in poverty and accepts his current placement in society. He continues by saying, “I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving.”
Doolittle does not want to be apart of the upper class society because so much is expected of them. Doolittle is extremely happy being in his current social status. He says, “They (“millionaires”) don’t know what happiness is.” Doolittle believes the upper class is unhappy because they are living an imaginary life. Doolittle does not wish to be apart of the upper class because he would be expected to speak and act properly in order to retain his status within the class. Doolittle, an “undeserving” member of the lower class, is comfortable and happy in his lower class social situation.
Doolittle suddenly encounters money and is thrust into upper class society. Doolittle receives a share in a trust and is required to lecture for “three thousand a year.” Doolittle freely accepts the financial gain but soon realizes the social obligations that accompany it. Doolittle says, “I have to live for others and not myself.” Individuals who seek to take advantage of his newfound wealth surround him. Doolittle believes that “everybody touches me for money.” Doolittle sights one example of how individuals with money are treated better than those without money. Before he had money doctors would “shove” him out of the hospitals.
Once the doctors realize Doolittle has money they “can’t live unless they looks after me twice a day.” Doolittle, who retains the personality of a Stokes 3 member of the lower class, is upset because people are using him for money. Doolittle feels his is now “expected to provide for everyone.” Doolittle says he “was happy before” he got the money. Doolittle, who is propelled into the upper class, recognizes people are using him. He wishes and strives to remain the same person he was before he encountered money.
Doolittle’s dislike of “middle class morality”, appreciation of and the freedom that accompanies his lower social status, and his eventual climb into the upper class presents his desire to remain in “undeserving poverty.” Doolittle, a character who emerges financially from poverty to being rich, strives to maintain his lower class status and the way of life they accompanied this status. Shaw, by using Doolittle, successfully presents a character that is happy with and comes to appreciate his status in the lower class society and wishes to remain in that social class.