Willy Russell's Educating Rita
Length: 1506 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)
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‘Educating Rita’ explores the way in which a woman, in her late twenties, Rita, has to deal with everyday life, conflict change and different phases as she becomes educated. The play is based on Willy Russell’s own life. At the start of the play, Frank is a more relaxed character. Rita is a hyper and open minded character, searching for adventure. She comes from the working class society and tries to become educated and well respected. Frank on the other hand is from the upper-class society, well educated but has lost most of his respect through drinking. As the play progresses Frank starts to show a romantic and affectionate side of himself towards Rita, she starts to move away from Frank as she makes new friends and as she becomes more educated, creating a sense of jealousness in Frank.
Russell focuses on Franks actions in the beginning of the play. Frank is a relaxed character that gets excited by alcohol “Jubilantly he moves to the Dickens section and pulls out a pile of books to reveal a bottle of whiskey.” The quotation implies that Frank secretively drinking and hiding his alcohol from others view. The quote could also be used as a metaphor where the alcohol is his real life being hidden from other people. He feels bad about drinking nevertheless he feels compelled and destined to do it
The language that Frank uses is very upper class compared to Rita. He mentions that he swears a lot. Even though he never swore once in the play. This might be a sign of respect towards Rita, as she is a woman. These signs show that he is well raised, even though he just stopped caring about others. “You just pop off and put your head in the in the oven.” This quote is form a telephone conversation with his girlfriend Julia. He is Rather mean to her, from the quote we can find that the relationship is not going to last. It shows dislike towards her.
His attitudes to life are very dull; he is a less renowned poet that has not produced a poem in a while most probably because of his wife that left him.
He has lost all his ego and believes that he is an appealing teacher “I am an appalling teacher ... but an appalling teacher is in order for most of my appalling students.” The quote suggests that he does not get on well with his students because they do not like him and they think of him as a drunk, but he thinks that they are sickening and do not deserve much. Frank is not concerned about the quality of his teaching. He gave up on his life, wasting it through alcohol.
In scene one of act one, Russell focuses on Rita’s actions. “The door swings open revealing Rita” She has a very symbolic entrance. She is a breath of fresh air in Frank’s life where the door swings open rapidly to reveal a charming woman. Frank’s dull and uninteresting life is lightened up by Rita who is full of energy, wide awake and just searching for freedom through education in an Open University in the Liverpool. She is very rebellious and does what she a kind of working class attitude. “Rita goes to hang her coat on the door hooks” She makes herself at home. She does not have much manners and is not really well raised. She swears and curses but gets straight to the point “Cos’ you don’t understand. So y’ switch it off an’ say, that’s fucking rubbish.” She believes that only educated people watch the ballet and opera, and uneducated people don’t understand.
Her attitudes towards life in act one of scene one are very negative because she is from the working, she thinks educated people can live ‘freely’: “God, what’s it like to be free?” She has preconceived ideas about the educated and to live free. But she doesn’t know that not all educated people live free. She is very fussy and childlike, she will get whatever she wants, and Frank cannot stop her: “You’re my tutor … You’re going to bleedin’ well teach me.” Frank is pushing her away but she puts her foot down to get an education from Frank because she is determent to get educated and she will not take no for an answer. She is not happy with herself: “Takes a pencil and scratches out the initial ‘S’ ” She wants to change and get rid of the old person she was. She chose her name after a famous person, thinking it would help her. This is symbolic showing that she is sick of herself and that she wants change.
The language that Rita uses is very colloquial from the working class society. She gets straight to the point and swears a lot. “ Y’ don’t mind me swearin’, do y’?” The slang language she uses would come from the working class society; it could also be because of the reason that she does not read many books.
In act two scene one, Russell changed the actions of Frank completely: “Frank is sitting at his desk typing poetry” This quote shows a big changing point in Frank’s life, he has not typed poetry since he broke up with his life, suddenly he started again. This shows that he has improved on his life style “He pauses, stubs out a cigarette” The quote suggests that something is wrong, his girlfriend Julia forbid him to smoke, he is smoking again, this could indicate that he broke up with Julia.
His attitudes have not changed much, however he has started to produce poetry again which shows he found a will to achieve something, again. He still does not like to go out and meet new people, after Rita asked him why he does not go out he replied: “Like Dracula, I have an aversion to sunlight.” He uses excuses because he either finds shelter in his office or he is scared of meeting strangers either way he does not like change. Frank would still like to know everything about Rita. “Trish? Is she a good flat mate?”He doesn’t push her away anymore even though he will not admit to her that he needs her and he really likes her. The audience starts to see a father-daughter relationship; Rita is slowly pulling away from Frank as she does not need him that much anymore because she has made other friends.
His language has not changed at all he still uses the same type of language. “Life is such a rich and frantic whirl, that I need a drink to help me delicately step through.” It is an excuse for him to drink because he is addicted and feels that he needs it, and he is not happy with life. “This room does not need air thank you very much.” His room symbolizes him and Rita is trying to open him up to the outside world but he doesn’t want to. He is afraid of change.
In the second act Rita returns from summer camp she is excited and would like to share everything with Frank, she is very open minded, and she likes to talk a lot. She likes to have conversations with Frank but he is narrow minded and doesn’t want to talk about his summer. It seems like he has this idea that everything that he achieves or does is never good enough or as good as somebody else’s achievements.
Her attitudes towards life and Frank have changed in the second act. She wants Frank to change, because she knows what is good for him and she doesn’t always believe that he knows what is good for him: “Are you still on this stuff?” Because Frank doesn’t like change and Rita is trying to change him he starts to get annoyed with her, he also has a sense of jealousness because she has progressed and he has not , she has stopped smoking. in the beginning of the play she was scared of the students, she made friends with some of them and is planning on going to France with them, this shows progress in a social way.
In the second act Rita’s language has matured she uses more complicated words and takes her literature seriously.
The audience can clearly see that the main theme of the play is change, the play has a very strong and emotional message, if you want to change, you can, if you work hard enough and put your mind to it, like Rita. She has changed to become a better person and has stopped her bad habits like smoking for her own good. She has gone from a hairdresser to a well educated and respected woman. Frank started with his bad habit of smoking again but he gained will to start writing poetry again.