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In willy Russell's play "educating Rita" the first scenes of each acts
are very different from each other. In act two scene one there is
almost a complete reverse in characters attitude, status and behaviour
from the first scene of act one. This is because in act one, Rita
really admires Frank and wishes she could be just like him because of
his vast knowledge. However in act two Frank admires the change in
Rita but at the same time he is also upset because he has lost the
Rita he used to know and he thinks that Rita no longer needs him
because she knows 'what wine to buy and what clothes to wear' but Rita
doesn't realise that there's more to education than just this!
ACT ONE FRANK
From the first scene of act one the first character we begin to learn
about is Frank. Frank is middle aged, uses standard English and is
well spoken. He appears to be a stereotypical middle class academic
but he has hidden qualities. Frank likes to drink; "Yes I suppose I
did take it on to pay for the drink." He constantly refers to the
drink and drinks throughout the play which suggests that Frank is an
alcoholic. He drinks to help him step delicately through the pressures
of his life- Not only is he teaching a course he doesn't want to
teach, He's got a girlfriend who is constantly getting him.
As well as drinking, Frank also smokes which makes him quite a weak
character because in scene one, Rita offers him a cigarette and he has
one even though he has supposed to have given up; "I made a promise
not to smoke."
Throughout the play Frank's frustration is shown by his sarcastic
humour ; "I like my lamb done to the point of abuse... You could
incinerate ratatouille and it still wouldn't burn!" Like this, Frank's
attitude towards most things is negative ;" I'm actually an appalling
teacher." Like the alcohol, Franks negativity is brought on by his
life. Frank gets no enjoyment from teaching, he'd much rather be with
his friends at his local pub. But besides Frank's negativity, Frank
doesn't patronise Rita ;" What would you like to know... Everything?
That's rather a lot... where would you like to start?" He listens and
ACT ONE RITA
In the first act, Rita comes across as a stereotypical working class
Liverpudlian woman! She is twenty six, working class, speaks with a
scouse dialect and lives in a council house with her husband Denny.
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Rita's opening line, she bursts through the door very boldly and
frustrated ;" I'm comin' in aren't I, It's that bleedin' handle on the
door, you wanna get it fixed!" Rita constantly speaks her mind like
this throughout the act which often causes her to say or do the wrong
thing, e.g. In one of Rita's essays she simply writes "Do it on the
radio," Which is what she believes however it is not enough for an
essay. A problem with Rita in act one is that she doesn't think before
she speaks ;"Howard's end...sounds filthy doesn't it?" This is an
inappropriate way to speak to your tutor who you are trying to make a
good impression on.
In act one, Rita smokes and she is not ashamed of it ;" Everyone seems
to have packed in these days, They're all afraid of gettin' cancer."
My guess is that Rita started smoking just so she could be like her
mates down the pub which is why she is unsure about taking the course
because she isn't following her cultures regular path ;" I'm twenty
six, I should have had a baby by now."
Before Rita came on Frank's course she had only had the very basics of
education which is why Rita doesn't always understand Franks standard
English ;--"Frank-- You are. --Rita-- Who am I?" This is because they
are from two totally different backgrounds which is why sometimes
Frank can't always understand Rita's use of language either.
ACT TWO RITA
In act two, Rita is a completely changed person. She has had a break
from university to go to a summer school in London. The first change
we notice in Rita is the way she is dressed, instead of her tight
skirts and skimpy tops she is wearing mature second hand clothes.
Another thing we notice about Rita is when she is telling Frank about
summer school, she explains that a tutor there asked her if she was
ford of Ferlinghetti, and instead of giving a clever, witty answer
because she'd never heard of him, she replied with "Actually I'm not
too familiar with the American poets." If Rita was asked this question
during act one she would have immediately given a witty answer without
even thinking. So straight away she is making a better first
impression on people.
Another thing we discover is that Rita has given up smoking ;"No ta,
I've packed it in." This is quite ironic because in the first scene of
act one Rita was explaining to Frank that she wasn't afraid of cancer
and you should look death in the eye!
Throughout act two scene one Rita uses very little slang and doesn't
swear once and unlike in act one, Rita is extremely keen to get back
on with her work ;"come on (she claps) what are we going to do this
term?" This shows that Rita is more confident and has belief in
herself that she can learn, her conversation with Frank about summer
school also shows this; "I was asking questions all week, y' couldn't
keep me down." This shows Rita is more confident because in act one
Rita didn't ask many questions, she just accepted everything Frank
told her. Also in act one it was usually just Frank giving advice to
Rita but in this scene, she warns Frank about drinking ;"why do y' do
it...it'll kill y' Frank." Rita is quite concerned for Franks health
because he doesn't appear to want to do anything about his drinking
problem. This shows a change in Rita because in act one Rita wanted to
be just like Frank because to Rita, Frank appeared to know everything
which was exactly what Rita wanted to know. All these changes in Rita
are for the good i.e. She is more educated which was her aim in the
first place, she has given up smoking which is good for her health and
she is more confident in herself.
ACT TWO FRANK
Although in the first scene of act two we notice a considerable
difference in Rita, In act two Frank has barely changed at all. Frank
is still drinking ;"Life is such a rich and frantic whirl that I need
the drink to help me step delicately through it." This is a shame
because Rita constantly warns him about it.
Frank has taken up smoking again. This shows that Frank has hardly
changed because he was supposed to have given up at the beginning of
act one so he still hasn't got round to it. Frank also still uses his
frequent sarcasm; "maybe we could take cuttings and germinate other
little rooms." On the whole Frank hasn't changed however he has had a
change of attitude towards Rita, this is due to Rita being a
completely changed person. Frank is afraid he is going to lose Rita
because he worried that now Rita is more educated she will no longer
need him. Rita picks up on Franks change of attitude later in the act
mainly because of how much he's been drinking because of it.
Willy Russell uses a variety of techniques to show differences in both
characters, this includes the way they speak (mainly Rita) the way
Rita dresses and their attitudes and beliefs. At the beginning of the
play Rita has set her heart on becoming an educated woman, by act two
scene one she is well on her way to that goal. However, she thinks
that now she's more knowledgeable she doesn't need Frank anymore and
she knows 'what wine to buy and what clothes to wear.' By the end of
the act she settles down and realises that she should just be herself.
This is because she has spent too long trying to be like other people,
E.g. her mates down the pub, Trish her flat mate and even more
recently, Frank. So she should take life at her own pace and not at
the pace of others around her, sheÕs realised that it doesnÕt matter
if ÔyouÕre supposed to have had a baby by nowÕ as long as youÕre happy
it doesnÕt matter.