How does Willy Russell portray the changing relationship between Rita and Frank in "Educating Rita"?

Essay by cherineA-, October 2005

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"Educating Rita" is a play dealing with class boundaries and the issues surrounding it, set in 1980s. In those times, class was much more important than it is now. Not many people attended universities and those who did were mainly upper class citizens. However, this play tells us the story of a young woman named Rita who challenges this system. She aspires to attend university to get a higher education, defying her working class background. Rita is a working class hairdresser who enrols at the Open University English Literature Course and decides to get herself an education. She enters the study and world of Frank, an alcoholic, disillusioned professor and poet who's sick of his work, his students, his wife and life in general. At first, Frank is reluctant to teach her but soon sees her rare qualities and accepts the challenge of educating Rita.

Willy Russell portrays the changing relationship through infrequent, but highly symbolic actions and dialogue.

In the beginning, when she first meets him, he already portrays their different background by using the simple humorous speech when they say 'what' and pardon' several times between them. Rita seems to be at ease and comfortable around Frank with her bubbly and chatty personality. She paces around his study and looks and comments on his things. 'That's a nice picture, isn't it?' Rita seems a bit more in command than Frank and although Rita seems confident she probably was a bit nervous as she wanted Frank to tutor her. Frank's personality is more reserved. He's probably a bit confused and unsure of how to make out Rita's personality as she is very different from the students he usually teaches. When Rita goes and sits in Frank's chair, this symbolises the changing of roles and that Rita will...