Willy Russell's Educating Rita

Willy Russell's Educating Rita

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Willy Russell's Educating Rita

Educating Rita was a play, which was written by Willy Russell. The
book is a semi autobiographical story about a woman who has achieved
nothing in her life and wants to get an education before it is too
late. She is being forced to have a baby by her husband Denny and
regrets not getting any qualifications. With a lack of learning she
had only hairdressing to turn to. She started to feel like she was
just another person in a crowd, nobody special at home so she starts a
literature course at the Open University. Where she is given Frank as
a tutor. Frank teaches her literature. She is an outcast to begin but
it doesn’t take long before she becomes a stereotypical student
sitting on the lawn.

Frank is a middle-aged man, divorced but not single. His girlfriend
Julia who we find cheating on him. As an English Lecturer and former
poet, he understands the deeper meaning behind literature, but he
can’t remember it half the time because of his little drinking
problem.

The character of Rita was based on the writer’s own life and
experiences. They both grew up outside Liverpool with a poor education
and a lack of qualifications. They both set off to change their lives.
Rita became a student while Willy Russell lived his dream of being a
writer.

In act 1 Rita is introduced. She is shown to be loud and outwardly
confident. An example is her use of inappropriate, crude language.
When she sees a piece of artwork hanging on Frank’s office wall she
says “look at those tits”. This quote expresses her attitude and gives
you the impression she is loud and always speaks her mind. Her
approach to Frank’s sophisticated reality is crude and shocking.

“That’s ‘S’ for Susan. Its not me real name. I’ve changed it to Rita
though” This is the funny side of Rita. She is made out to be
entertaining and funny to make the audience laugh. When
misunderstanding Frank’s comments her words are twisted into an
inappropriate language. This shows her lack of education and her
completely different approach to literature, her experiences are only
reading pulp fiction books.. This lack in education causes her social
status around school to be very low. She wants to be like the other
students and knows it will take a lot of work to get there. The
audience sees that she is aware of her academic limitations and knows
the change will have to come from within “… they come to the
hairdressers cos they wanna be changed, but if you want to change y’

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have to do it from the inside, don’t y’?…do you think I will be able
to do it?”

She wants a different life for herself, she is sick of being like
every other woman in her family, having a baby is the last thing on
her list but her husband Denny is pressuring her. There is a set image
of a working class woman and she doesn’t want that ‘mother at twenty
with no schooling’ attitude to run in her family. She believes she has
to change before it is too late. She feels like she is already
different from her family but if left she would be forced to be the
same as everyone else “I’m twenty six, I should have had a baby by
now, everyone expects it … See I wanna discover myself first”

She appears different from other students. She is much louder and
outspoken. She puts her own inappropriate opinions into her essays and
has a unique attitude towards literature which is like “a breath of
fresh air” for Frank, although she is uneducated she has a unique
sense of literature. Each student seemed to be identical to the last
and then Rita came along and gave hope to Frank.

Her lack of confidence causes problems for her education, she is
afraid of expressing her feelings and when she does say something it
comes out the wrong way. Most of the time in a crude comment an
example of this is her sense of humour about the book “Howard’s end”.

Although she was amazingly determined she didn’t expect to last the
whole course. She is smart but in a unique way. She wants to learn but
is being kept down by her roots. She feels and knows she is missing
out on an education and this is a way of escaping her past lifestyle
where she was taught to obey her husband Denny and spend hour after
hour cutting people’s hair. Denny has control over her but not her
life. She realises her life has no direction so she started her course
at the Open University “…that’s the point when y’ have to decide
whether its gonna be another change of dress or a change in yourself.”

As the play develops the audience begins to understand and sympathise
with Rita’s struggle to educate herself. Part of this struggle is her
husband Denny. Denny was not educated properly at school just like
Rita. He feels threatened by Rita’s new found intelligence. He feels
like he must compete with university for Rita’s affection thus he is
not very supportive of Rita’s plans. “Denny tried to stop me comin’
tonight … He hates me comin’ here. It’s like drug addicts, isn’t it? …
That’s what Denny’s frightened of.”

Rita told Denny she was off the pill, when he discovered the truth
Denny took his anger out on Rita’s education by burning her books and
essays. “Denny found out I was on the pill again … He burnt all me
books”.

Compared with Denny, Frank treats Rita with respect and encourages her
to continue with her studies. He gives her room to breath. Her
relationship with Denny begins to suffer. He can’t come to terms with
the fact that Rita is changing and he is becoming jealous of Rita’s
intellect. Rita thinks and feels for herself now and Denny begins to
feel useless and put aside. “… he’s wonderin’ where the girl he
married had gone to … because she’s gone an’ I’ve taken her place”.
When her relationship breaks down she leaves Denny. She thought of him
as an obstacle which she needs to avoid if she is going to achieve her
dream of being a student. If Denny was to stay around he would only
drag her down with him. This act of independence shows the audience
that Rita is becoming much more determined and has gained the courage
she needs to carry on with her studies.

In act 1, scene 7 Frank invites Rita to a dinner party. He wants her
to attend possibly with Denny and to be herself. She gets the
impression she was asked to bethe “court jester”. A form of
conversation. Somebody to make everybody laugh. She doesn’t want to go
but in the end Frank persuades her. She gets dressed up in her new
clothes and buys a bottle of wine “Spanish plonk” to take as a gift.
When she shows up she looks into the window, she sees all the
intellectual and sophisticated guests. She starts to feel like a
“half-caste” as if she isn’t meant to be there. She takes her essay
and writes sorry on the back and explains why she couldn’t come in and
leaves it for Frank to find on his car. She felt like she was
different, like a “freak” “I’d brought the wrong sort of wine”.

When Rita doesn’t arrive at the dinner Frank felt upset. He doesn’t
want Rita to be like everyone else. He believes that her uniqueness is
special and a quality she must keep hold of. He explains to her the
next day how he only invited her to be herself and he know everybody
else would like her, not as the source of entertainment but as on open
minded woman. That is just as Frank sees her. “you could have come as
yourself”

Rita realise she doesn’t belong in either worlds now. After missing
Franks party she went down to the pub to join Denny and the rest of
her family. They began to sing along with the karaoke and she knew she
didn’t belong there “I wanna sing a different song, a better song” but
her educated life isn’t going as well either, she doesn’t feel
comfortable around Frank’s friends and other students. She is stuck
between to conflicting cultures and doesn’t fit in either one. She is
isolated and in a state of Limbo. “I’m a half-caste, a freak” this
absence of Rita’s culture makes the audience feel sympathy towards
Rita. This is because Rita is all alone and neither culture is right
for her.

When she left Denny she knew it was her fault. Her ambitions got in
the way of her lifestyle and it was her lifestyle that forced her to
get an education. She knows she is responsible for the break up “it
was an ultimatum. He said I betrayed him” This “betrayal” was the only
way she could change. If Denny was threatened by her new found
intelligence then maybe she would have to continue without him. Now
she is more determined top reach her goal.

Frank feels she is not putting enough effort into her work and he
reminds her it will not be easy if she wants to pass, “but if your
going to write this sort of thing your going to have to change” so she
goes to summer school and comes back a new person.

The major turning point in the play is when Rita goes to summer
school, it was the kick she needed to get started. She became much
more confident towards classes “two thousand people had seen me stand
up, so I did it, I asked him the question” now she has gained
independence around other pupils and has found a new identity. She
started making new friends who are her idea of the “real” educated
student, she found a new job at a bistro and stops talking to Frank
about personal matters. She becomes more familiar with Blake, which is
a poet Frank had been saving for her. She returns home a completely
different person.

In the final part of the play the audience sees a complete change in
Rita’s character and her relationship with Frank. In act 2 Rita shows
off her intelligence, Frank becomes jealous and starts telling Rita
she has changed for the worse not for the good. She back chats Frank
by telling him that she is independent now and she likes it “I can do
things on me own more now … Just don’t keep treatin’ me as though I’m
the same person I was when I first walked in here.”

Her new life meant more than an education so she left her mothers
house and moved into a flat with an eccentric room mate, Trish. She
also quit the hairdressers and got a new job with Trish at a small
bistro. This change gives Rita more chances to fit in such as her new
circle of friends. Frank feels jealous that Rita got the life he
always wanted. Although he doesn’t show it and he thinks students just
follow the crowd. Rita is still unique to him but she refuses to
express it. She is treating Frank as another typical tutor and not a
friend “it struck me that there was a time when you told me
everything” He feels that Rita doesn’t want to be at the tutorials and
that she is only going out of pity. “you don’t have to put in the odd
appearance out of sentimentality”

When Rita visits him to praise his poetry he compares himself to the
writer Mary Shelley who wrote the book Frankenstein, He tells her she
has become a monster and as the creator he regrets it and can’t escape
her “I shall insist upon know as Mary, Mary Shelley” he also uses this
comparison as an insult because Rita changed her name back to Susan.
Rita becomes angry and over confidant and says some harsh things. Ashe
is now independent but also selfish and irritated by Franks self pity.
“I don’t need you”

After her argument with Frank she goes home to find Trish. She has
attempted suicide. This is a wake up call for Rita. No longer does she
believe students have the perfect life. She thought Trish was getting
along well but the attempt changed her view of life. Trish explains to
her that everything wasn’t good. A student’s life is full of stress
and gossip. Rita still had the chance to get out. For the first time
she had a choice.

She sits her exam. She was given the same question Frank had given her
on her first tutorial. She could have written the answer she had to
begin with but she didn’t. She passes her exams with flying colours.

Frank gets in trouble for drinking during lessons and he is told he
needs a vacation. The university offers him a new post in Australia.
He invites Rita to go with him but she refuses. Now she can do
whatever she wants and moving to Australia would mean she would be
running away from all of her opportunities at home.

Frank gives Rita a dress for an educated woman in the end scene. As a
thank you Rita gives Frank a present that she promised him in the
beginning, a haircut. Rita has a new life and is full of
determination. Now she has an education, independence and can decide
what her next move is. “I dunno I might go to France, I might go to me
mothers, I might even have a baby. I dunno, I’ll make a decision, I’ll
choose.”

To summarise Rita was fed up with her life but with the right push she
got the confidence she needed. Through thick and thin Rita was going
to get what she wanted, an education and a chance to prove herself.
After taking a course at the Open University, She meets Frank, a
former poet. He guides her through this and attempts to help her fit
in but she refuses to associate with Frank’s friends. She went to
summer school and came back a changed woman, she was independent but a
bit overconfident. Frank dislikes Rita’s new attitude, she has become
selfish and cheeky but once her room mate attempts suicide she
realises that being a student isn’t all that great. She apologises to
Frank and has that chance to do whatever she wants now. From this we
are told along with many other lessons that you can do anything if you
put your mind to it.
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