"Educating Rita" by Willy Russell.

Essay by TeffyCollege, UndergraduateB+, December 2003

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Rita is a working class person who is trapped in life. She is trapped by the mundane routine that she is following. She wants to break free of her social class and have choice. When we first meet Rita she proclaims that she wants to know 'Everything' maybe not a feasible goal but an ambitious one. She believes by walking into Frank's room she will be taught a whole new culture and class.

Rita had begun her education before she stepped foot into Franks room; She had done this by watching the ballet and opera on the television even though those around her were opposed to the idea and that she her fact didn't understand it. Rita had also begun reading what she considered to be a literary novel 'Rubyfruit Jungle'. She was so taken by the book that she even changed her name to Rita after the author of the book.

Rita would not take no for an answer when Frank told her he wasn't really up to the job and that he could find a much better teacher to suit her needs. She walks from the room and then realises Frank is the teacher she wants and tells him that.

Rita has very low self-esteem in the beginning she needs constant reassurance particualy from Frank, as he is her role model.

"Do you think I'll be able to do it"

In a strange way this also confirms how determined Rita is in succeeding by having the reassurance from Frank she knows that she is doing right.

Rita was awe-struck when she discovered that Frank had read not only parts of T.S.Eliot but also all of his works.

(Impressed) "Honest?"

She admires Frank for this because she's tried to understand Eliot but never quite got there.

Rita has never been to the theatre before. She's never felt worthy enough to and would never dream of going on her own. She's not confident enough within herself, so she pesters Frank to go with her.

"Come with me, Frank"

Rita has a longing to go out and explore new things the theatre been one of them. Even though Frank shows little enthusiasm for going to an ameauter production he sees the excitement brimming over within her. She wants Frank to go with her one so he doesn't drink himself into a stupor and two so she has someone there to guide her and to hide behind, he makes her feel safe.

Rita suffers a lot of oppression at home; her husband Denny doesn't want her to become an educated woman he even burns her books. All of her life Rita has had to conform to what people and her peers dictated. She wants to be a 'proper student' but because of the social expectations placed upon her she knew early on in her life that she was supposed to learn.

"There was always something in me head, tappin' away tellin' me I might of got it wrong. But I'd just play another record or buy another dress and forget about it"

Education was not of high priority for Rita when she was younger and she realises that this was a mistake.

Rita doesn't seem to grasp that to succeed within the new society. She doesn't realise that she still has to conform to a new set of rules. Frank teaches Rita that to be accepted as an intellectual she has to conform to what is expected of her. She has to be committed to succeed for example at the beginning of the play when asked to write an essay on 'Peers Gynt' she simply wrote 'Do it on the Radio'. Frank explains to Rita that it may not be the wrong answer but she would fail to get a mark in an exam the answer has no depth and it's not what an examiner would expect. As the play progresses and Rita begins to adapt we see a change take place in her.

Rita sits down by the desk and unpacks the students pad, pencilcase, ruler, copy of 'Peer Gynt' and eight reference books.

One of the first books Frank asks Rita to read is 'Howard's End'. When Frank asks Rita what she thought of the book he gets the reply of,

"It was Crap"

Frank removes the blinkers from Ritas' eyes. She has an innocent point of view. Frank shows Rita that she can't look at literature with a bigoted point of view, she has to break free of the shackles of the working class and the society system it's self. Frank tells Rita that if she's dedicated then she must find time to write her essays it's not acceptable to write them at work like she had with her 'Peer Gynt' essay.

To help her understand literature in more depth Frank relates 'Forster' to her own surroundings.

"Yes and connecting, your dresses/ITV and the Daily Mirror, Addicts/you and your husband."

By explaining things to Rita like this she understands quickly she gets the concept of 'Irony'.

As we move through the play we see the changes in Rita. In the start Rita and Frank share playful banter that is part of Ritas nieve charm that Frank adores about her and wants that part to stay. The banter changes from silly flirtations to intellectual conversation.

She's becoming more independent; Frank has taught her that she needs to have her own views. Rita takes the plunge and goes to the theatre on her own something early on she would never have done. She chooses 'Macbeth' and the one person she can tell is Frank.

Rita bursts through the door.

Rita has made a great leap forward in her learning process.

Rita shares her limited knowledge with others, she's beginning to spread her wings and be able to feel confident to talk about an intellectual topic with another person. Frank has given her this confidence by carefully nurturing and allowing her to grow.

The fact can not be ignored that a lot of Ritas' progress is down to her going to summer school and the influence of new friends Trish and Tyson that she now associates with. Money has never being an issue for Rita she wants to understand things, open doors for herself in a new and exciting culture. Frank and Rita learn a lot more from each other as the play progresses. Frank learns that education can 'quash' a person. He realises or thinks that if Rita is successful in learning 'Everything' which is what she wanted then it would spoil what is special about Rita, she says exactly what's on her mind. Frank realises that she is losing her uniqueness and that he has failed in stopping it from happening. Rita has transformed into a person who knows what to drink what to say and what to wear weather franks wants it to happen or not. She has become the literary snob he didn't want.