What is the Importance of Alfred Doolittle to Shaw's 'Pygmalion?'

Authors Avatar

Joanna Bartlett  11vi   Exam Practice    Pygmalion   Doolittle Essay Focus

What do you consider to be the importance of the role of Alfred Doolittle for the play as a whole?

Alfred Doolittle is a working class dustman. He is Eliza’s father and an important character to the theme of class distinction.

        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.’

Join now!

        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 £10 rather than £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 ...

This is a preview of the whole essay

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay


This is an excellent analytical essay that focuses on the question, ranges around the play and considers the contextual factors that influenced Shaw's writing and the way the play would have been received by audiences of the time. To further strengthen the points more direct reference to the text should be included; links between the different Acts in which Doolittle appears could be explored to identify specific differences and similarities of the character before he has money and after he has received it.