Pygmalion

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Colonel Pickering Character Analysis

A gentleman, a colonel and an academic, who studies Indian dialects. While he shares Higgins' interest in linguistics, he is not as extreme in his devotion to his intellectual pursuits. While he gives Higgins the idea for the bet involving Eliza, he treats Eliza kindly and considers her feelings. (It is his calling her Miss Doolittle, we learn in Act Five, that actually encourages Eliza to really change.) At the end of the play, he apologizes to Eliza for treating her like the subject of an experiment, unlike the selfish Higgins who never apologizes.

Colonel Pickering Quotes in Pygmalion

The Pygmalion quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Pickering or refer to Colonel Pickering. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language and Speech Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Pygmalion published in 2000.
Act 2 Quotes

You know, Pickering, if you consider a shilling, not as a simple shilling, but as a percentage of this girl's income, it works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

When Eliza asks Higgins to give her elocution lessons, she offers to pay him a shilling per lesson, which she believes to be his going rate (as Higgins is a very wealthy man, it is likely much, much higher). In this quote, Higgins addresses Pickering as if Eliza is not present. This further exemplifies his rudeness towards her: he does not consider her to be of the same intelligence of himself and Pickering, and therefore does not even think to include her in the conversation.

Here, Higgins reasons that as a ratio of Eliza's income, a shilling is comparable to "sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire." Rather than feeling touched that Eliza would be willing to part with such a large part of her income in order for his expertise, Higgins' merely calculates this ratio for his own amusement. Higgins' interest in Eliza is purely for entertainment, not because he has an investment in bettering her future by "fixing" her speech to a standard that society perceives to be higher class. Comparing Eliza to a millionaire also reveals how Higgins' mind works--he is constantly determining class distinctions in his mind about the people he interacts with. Eliza does not exist as simply who she is, rags and all, but rather within the context of how she stacks up--or doesn't--to the rest of Victorian society. 

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Act 3 Quotes

You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.

Related Characters: Mrs. Higgins (speaker), Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

After the guests leave, Mrs. Higgins grills Pickering and her son as to their true intentions for Eliza. When they explain their project and bet, Mrs. Higgins is horrified and points out the fallacies in their experimental design: Eliza is a human, and she will continue to live a life after the project is over. 

In this quote, Mrs. Higgins points out that the two men are acting like children delighting over the intricacies of their "live doll." When children play with a doll, they manipulate its movements and perhaps make up what it says, but they don't actually believe that the doll has a mind of its own. This is how Pickering and Higgins approach Eliza: as a toy for their amusement, without consulting her on her own beliefs and thoughts, because it has never occurred to them that she has any. Their project, though supposedly intended for real-world application, ultimately lives in the world of academia, especially since they have not thought of what to do with Eliza when she succeeds, or doesn't, at the garden party. This lack of foresight is what truly makes their experiment and actions immature. 

Act 4 Quotes

Well, I feel a bit tired. It's been a long day. The garden party, a dinner party, and the opera! Rather too much of a good thing. But you've won your bet, Higgins. Eliza did the trick, and something to spare, eh?
Thank God it's over!

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Colonel Pickering (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

The garden party is a success, and Eliza "fools" all of the noblemen into believing she is a duchess. After returning from the party, Pickering and Higgins congratulate themselves on a job well-done, and completely ignore Eliza's presence. In this quote, Pickering and Higgins are smugly satisfied with their work on Eliza, completely ignoring the fact that it was she who was the actual success at the party, not just them. Higgins' comment about being grateful it is over is particularly hurtful to Eliza--it is further confirmation that they were really interested in their fun and games, and not her feelings or future, in initiating this project. She as a "success" story matters very little to them--they are only interested in using their wit and wealth to mold her and amuse themselves. Now, they can move on to whatever else will entertain them, and have little regard for what happens to Eliza now that she has been molded into a semblance of a noblewoman, and cannot return to the "gutter." This quote is evidence of the crass and blasé nature that the two men inspire in each other, in particular the insensitive remarks that Higgins frequently doles out without regard to Eliza's feelings or literal presence in the room.

I was quite frightened once or twice because Eliza was doing it so well. You see, lots of the real people can't do it at all: they're such fools that they think style comes by nature to people in their position; and so they never learn.

Related Characters: Colonel Pickering (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

With Eliza still in the room, Higgins and Pickering continue to speak about her as if she was not present. In this quote, Pickering muses that Eliza learned more effectively than he could have ever imagined, to an extent that he was "frightened" as to how well she performed at the event.

This comment, though on the surface a compliment, is really an insult to Eliza's intelligence: after six months of intensive study, she of course performed well, since she is an intelligent human being capable of learning. Of course, as wealthy, classist, misogynistic men, both Pickering and Higgins drastically underestimated her abilities. Pickering comments that she acted even better than the wealthy partygoers, since as born and bred members of the upper crust, they never actually had to learn manners, but rather believed that all of their actions were worthy of class distinction. Though Pickering typically has been more sympathetic to Eliza's plight than Higgins, this comment shows that both of them fail to comprehend Eliza as a whole human being, not just the superficial product of their amusing endeavors.

Do my clothes belong to me or to Colonel Pickering?

Related Characters: Eliza Doolittle (speaker), Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

After fighting with Higgins, Eliza declares that she has no choice but to leave Wimpole Street. In this quote, before she leaves, she asks Higgins if the clothes she is wearing belong to her, or to Pickering, since he was the one who technically paid for her entire transformation. 

As the two men's "doll," Eliza is unsure what is now hers--tangibly, or emotionally--and what is property of Pickering and Higgins. This comment deeply wounds Higgins, since he genuinely did not realize that she felt this complexly about anything, let alone that she was smart enough to realize the sarcasm and condescension entrenched in his treatment towards her. Higgins considers himself charitable for having taken Eliza in, given her fancy things and an upper-crust attitude. By asking whether her clothing is her own or if she must return it to Pickering--presumably, for their next experiment with a girl they find on the street--hurts him, since he feels that she has not been grateful or understood the act of charity. 

Act 5 Quotes

She had become attached to you both. She worked very hard for you, Henry! I don't think you quite realize what anything in the nature of brain work means to a girl like that. Well, it seems that when the great day of trial came, and she did this wonderful thing for you without making a single mistake, you two sat there and never said a word to her, but talked together of how glad you were that it was all over and how you had been bored with the whole thing. And then you were surprised because she threw your slippers at you!

Related Characters: Mrs. Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

After storming out of Higgins' house, Eliza goes to Mrs. Higgins to spend the night and relate her woes from Wimpole Street. In this quote, Mrs. Higgins explains to her son all the ways he has failed his protégé. 

Higgins' views of wealth and class meant that he felt that his work on Eliza was very generous, and that it was he who succeeded at the garden party, not her--similar to the way he would have been proud of himself for publishing an academic paper, not for the paper due to its personal achievements. Eliza, however, is a human being, and feels that her own achievements have been completely ignored. Everyone besides Pickering, it appears, sees very clearly how poorly Higgins has treated Eliza, including his own mother. Higgins' disdain for young women meant that though he worked with Eliza, he never truly got to know her, since he didn't feel like she was worth it. Yet when she became angry at him, he felt very hurt, since he had assumed she felt fondly for him and grateful for his "service." Higgins can almost, but not quite, be forgiven for his behavior, since he is completely ignorant of how his actions and words affect others. However, his refusal to believe other people when they tell him he has misbehaved qualifies Shaw's statement that the character he has created is utterly "incorrigible." 

But do you know what began my real education?
What?
Your calling me Miss Doolittle that day when I first came to Wimpole Street. That was the beginning of self-respect for me.

Related Characters: Eliza Doolittle (speaker), Colonel Pickering (speaker)
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

Amidst the fight in Mrs. Higgins' house, Eliza turns to Pickering and expresses her affection towards him. Compared to Higgins, he was highly respectful towards her throughout the experiment (if exceedingly immature in intentions), and in this quote, she notes that her "real education" towards becoming a lady began when he called her Miss Doolittle, rather than Eliza or a flower-girl.

Here, Eliza reveals that it is not phonetics or etiquette lessons that ultimately led to her transformation, but rather the respect that acting in socially acceptable ways earned her. Though Higgins did not believe that he could do anything more than pass her off as a duchess, the respect that Eliza felt from society went deeper than appearances, and allowed her to finally realize that she could have higher goals beyond selling flowers. In this aspect, Higgins' experiment both help and hurt: it gave her the means to dream higher than she ever had before, and to experience self-respect and self-standards, though Higgins' crass attitude towards her emotions and intelligence severely dampened her self-esteem and spirits. Thus, it appears to have been Pickering whose kindness pushed Eliza through the experiment, and inspired her to take a stand against Higgins when he acted so rudely upon its completion. 

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Colonel Pickering Character Timeline in Pygmalion

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Pickering appears in Pygmalion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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...random person she doesn't know. Clara is exasperated at the waste of money. An elderly gentleman comes under the portico for shelter. (full context)
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The flower-girl asks the gentleman to buy a flower, but he says he doesn't have any change. He rummages in... (full context)
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The gentleman asks the note-taker how he knows where everyone is from, and he answers that he... (full context)
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The note-taking man then says to the gentleman that the flower-girl's accent and dialect will keep her in the lower class, but that... (full context)
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The gentleman says that he himself is "a student of Indian dialects." He introduces himself as Colonel... (full context)
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Higgins and Pickering leave to get dinner together. Higgins reluctantly gives the flower-girl some money. Freddy finally returns... (full context)
Act 2
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The next morning, Higgins and Pickering are at Higgins' "laboratory," a huge room filled with various tools and devices for Higgins'... (full context)
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...see Higgins. She says it is a common girl with a "dreadful" accent. Higgins tells Pickering that he will note down what the girl says and exactly what her accent is.... (full context)
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Amused by Eliza, Pickering offers to pay for her lessons and bets Higgins that he can't teach Eliza to... (full context)
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...anybody but me," and tells Mrs. Pearce that she can treat Eliza like a daughter. Pickering asks Higgins if it has ever occurred to him that Eliza has feelings of her... (full context)
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...He tries to tempt her with thoughts of a wealthy life, over Mrs. Pearce's protestations. Pickering objects, as well, calling Eliza "Miss Doolittle." (full context)
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...as she leaves, saying she hasn't asked for any of this. Once she is gone, Pickering asks Higgins if he is "a man of good character where women are concerned." Higgins... (full context)
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Pickering tells Higgins that if he is involved with teaching Eliza, he will feel responsible for... (full context)
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...and Mr. Doolittle asks for five pounds in return for letting Eliza stay with Higgins. Pickering and Higgins are shocked at his willingness to sell his own daughter and think giving... (full context)
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...has more clothes for her to try on. She leaves eagerly, saying "Ah-ow-oo-ooh!" Higgins and Pickering reflect on the difficult task ahead of them in making Eliza pass for a noble... (full context)
Act 3
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...from the first act. Higgins thinks he recognizes Clara, but doesn't remember from where. Colonel Pickering arrives. (full context)
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...her is merely the new fashion. Mrs. Eynsford Hill still doesn't like it, and asks Pickering what he thinks. He says that he's been away in India, so is not up... (full context)
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As she leaves, Mrs. Eynsford Hill laments to Pickering that Clara is annoyed when she is not up to date with "the latest slang."... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins asks about the state of Higgins' home, and learns that Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza are all living together now with Mrs. Pearce. Mrs. Higgins tells the two... (full context)
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Pickering assures Mrs. Higgins that they take Eliza very seriously, and Higgins calls her "the most... (full context)
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...lady from earning her own living," without the money to support such a lifestyle. But Pickering and Higgins aren't worried, and say they'll find her a job. They leave, laughing. Mrs.... (full context)
Act 4
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It is midnight at Higgins' house. Eliza, Higgins, and Pickering all enter, tired and dressed formally. Eliza is quiet, as Higgins and Pickering recount their... (full context)
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Higgins says he knew Eliza would be fine, and tells Pickering that he has long been bored with the experiment, after its early phase. Having to... (full context)
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...is annoyed by Eliza's comment, and tells her she doesn't have to marry. He says Pickering can set her up in a florist's shop. He starts to leave to go to... (full context)
Act 5
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Mrs. Higgins is sitting in her drawing room. Her parlor-maid announces that Higgins and Pickering are downstairs, telephoning the police. Mrs. Higgins tells the maid to go upstairs and tell... (full context)
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...down and says that Eliza has the right to leave his house when she wants. Pickering enters, having spoken with the police. Mrs. Higgins asks what right they have to go... (full context)
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...was over, when Eliza had become attached to them and had worked hard for them. Pickering concedes that he and Higgins were maybe inconsiderate to Eliza. Mrs. Higgins says she will... (full context)
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...put there himself. He continues to insult Eliza, who ignores him and talks politely to Pickering. (full context)
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Eliza tells Pickering that she is grateful to him for teaching her proper manners, unlike Higgins, who set... (full context)
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Eliza thanks Pickering for always treating her well, concluding that "the difference between a lady and a flower... (full context)
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Pickering tells Eliza to curse back at Higgins, but she says she cannot now. She says... (full context)
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Pickering encourages Eliza to go to the wedding. Eliza reluctantly agrees and leaves to get ready... (full context)
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Eliza returns and Mr. Doolittle leaves to get to his wedding. Pickering asks Eliza to forgive Higgins and come back to live at Higgins' place, before following... (full context)
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Higgins offers to adopt Eliza, or marry her to Pickering. Eliza says she doesn't want this, as Pickering is too old and Freddy Eysnford Hill... (full context)