Pretty Woman is an appropriation of the play by Bernard Shaw called Pygmalion, because it's characters, plot and central theme can all be closely linked. Both Vivian Ward's and Eliza Doolittle's transformation into society's "ideal women" undertakes the same central journey, with pivotal moments in character development similar to each other. Both women come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and through the help of their male counterparts, in the text, achieve confidence and self worth. Through the women's evolution of self, the narrative also enables the reader to see the society in which the characters are constructed, and how through the female's transformation society's attitudes towards the women are revealed. At their introduction into the texts, Edward Lewis and Henry Higgins both have no intention of "letting a woman into their life" but the major difference in the two texts is the transformation of the men's opinions. While Vivian's influence on Edward reaps a positive effect on his character, Higgins steadfastly retains his obstinate and stubborn nature.
Both Professor Higgins and Edward Lewis come from affluent and high-ranking social classes, where respect and power is earned through their education and high socio-economic status. In the first scene in Pygmalion, Professor Higgins is surrounded by all social classes as he observes their speech outside Convent Garden. As he begins to interact with the people in his surroundings, they are able to tell he is a gentleman, as the bystander notes "he's a gentleman, look at his boots". Not only does this statement confirm Higgins" status in the social hierarchy but also portrays the message that in this realm, a person's dress is used as an indicator of their position in society. Higgins himself, as Professor of Phonetics, is successful at his occupation, this being deduced as he says to Pickering when questioned about whether his employment earns him a living, "Oh yes, quite a fat one.