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Educating Rita Analytical

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Educating Rita is a short play that revolves around a young middle class woman (Rita) who is driven by a hunger to better herself and climb the harsh ladder of society through education and knowledge. Set in Liverpool 1985, during a time of high unemployment rates, economic depression and severe class divisions, the play deals with the idea of change in both negative and positive ways, but also boldly confronts the delicate issues of social class and education.

There are two major themes in the play, both of which equally as important, the first of the two is the domineering clash of culture that is present so significantly throughout a major part of the play. Although there are several references to other characters in the play, Frank (Rita’s tutor) and Rita herself are the only characters the audience encounters directly, and through them, their attitudes and language doe’s the theme of clashing cultures emerge.

The second is personal relationships, which is invoked by frank and Rita’s influence on each other and the way in which they affect each other’s development throughout the play. Willy Russell (author of educating Rita), was born in Liverpool forty years before the setting of the play, belonging to a better-off working class family, Russell failed and dropped out of school becoming a ladies hair dresser for six years, he then later quit his job and went back to education to take up his dream of becoming a writer.

In many ways Educating Rita undoubtedly mirrors Russell’s experiences in his life, as both Rita and Russell are born in Liverpool to working class families, they both fail school, are forced to unwillingly take up women’s hairdressing and both seek to return to education to better themselves. Taking this into account, we can see Willy Russell’s motives and goals in writing Educating Rita and in a sense we can gather from the striking similarities between him and Rita, that Russell is almost telling his own story.

At the beginning of the play Rita is somewhat insular, candid and socially naive, she is possessed by the uncanny idea that she can achieve her ascent to the middle class simply by knowing what books to read, clothes to wear and what to say, her vividly bold character is unexpectedly introduced to the audience as she makes a very dramatic entrance in the first scene, immediately drawing all attention to her ” I comin’in aren’t I?

It’s that stupid bleedin handle on the door”. This quote (Rita’s first line in the play) automatically provides the audience of their first impressions of Rita, that she is loud, vibrant and somewhat rude, but also leaves them questioning whether, this is Rita’s real personality or an act she is simply employing to hide her nervousness (depending on how good the actress that played Rita acted the scene).

It is only further into the first act that Rita’s character is reluctantly revealed to a slight extent and the audience begins to understand that her irrational behavior partly originates from her nervousness and insecurity in seeking to better herself and pursue a new life “that’s what I do when I’m nervous (swear and talk a lot)”.

It is clear that the early Rita is insecure about the path she is about to embark on, from the direct personal statements she makes e. g. “that’s what I do when I’m nervous (swear and talk a lot)”, her informal use of language (swearing), and the very unorthodox manner in which she behaves during the first act considering she is being interviewed.

Rita’s behaviour in the first act is very peculiar and is a major factor in giving away her nervousness and insecurity as a result of some of her actions, for example, Rita remains standing, hectically wandering round the room in observation till the closing lines of the first scene, and the way in which she keeps changing the topic of speech (this could be due to her then limited vocabulary) she also does not show any experience of formal meetings or anything of the type, but the biggest factor that projects Rita’s insecurity early in the play, and also exposes her deep self dissatisfaction is the very insecure manner in which she changes her name from Susan to Rita after her favourite author in a desperate attempt to sound more educated or sophisticated “Susan is just my real name. I’ve changed it to Rita, I’m not a Susan anymore”.

The early Rita is naive, yet intelligent in her own way, she understands that she does not fit in with neither working class nor middle class (she is not comfortable with working class, as her outlook is middle class but is not ready to be accepted into the middle class) this is backed up when Rita refers to her self as “half-cast”, in doing so she is almost acknowledging her self imposed outcast from both classes.

At this point Rita believes that the middle class has no problems, or worries, she assumes that all of the middle class eat ‘whole meal bread, flora’ and watch the BBC, (these are only some of the many sweeping generalizations she makes), and shows that she is quick to judge and stereotype people from what she’s heard instead of using her own views once she’s formed them. Rita also assumes that knowledge is the key that will set her “free”, therefore she is fuelled by a undeniable thirst for knowledge.

Apart from this the early Rita can be seen to be inconsiderate or blunt e. g. not only doe’s she ask Frank if she can smoke but gets her cigarettes out before he can answer, it is also moderately easy to notice that the early Rita has trouble expressing herself with words, she involuntarily express her emotions on her face, or with gestures, unable to mask them in her nervous state (this can be recognized Finally although the early Rita is nervous and insecure she is not shy, on the contrary she is bright, bold and bubbly. Rita towards end of the play becomes increasingly arrogant and very confident, we can sense a dramatic change in both her language and behaviour “I know Frank, I’m terribly sorry.

It was unavoidable”. This manner of speech is almost unrecognisable in comparison to that of the early Rita in the first few scenes. Rita also begins to interact with the younger students that she once found so intimidating, this is a definite sign of a boost in her confidence. Although Rita’s vocabulary has still not reached the level of her mentor or some of the students she interacts with, she finds her own way of sounding sophisticated using clever cliche s and comparisons, that are simple yet meaningful at the same time “tryin’ to compare Chatterley with sons and lovers is like trying to compare sparkling wine to champagne”, these cliche show the audience that Rita understands what she’s is talking about and are evidence of change in her character.

Rita is now beginning to produce work that is on the same level as that of the younger students and is able to speak about her work in a very educated manner ‘More resonate than-purely contemporary poetry in that you can see in it a direct line through to nineteenth century traditions (Rita on Frank’s poetry)”, and seems to have left behind her naive assumptions stereotypes, aspirations (to know everything) and judgments. Rita has not only made these changes but also clearly recognizes them herself, and certainly takes pride in how much she’s changed “don’t keep treatin’ me as though I’m the same as when I walked in here.

I understand now Frank I don’t need you to hold my hand as much” this shows that not only has Rita changed significantly she has also become independent, which is a huge step towards her goal, it is from this point that Rita’s transformation begins to complete. The biggest period of change for Rita is her time spent at summer school, this is especially evident as the play skips from before summer school to shortly after and therefore the audience is allowed to experience Rita after change, shortly before Rita before change. Rita’s new found independence and confidence almost completely differs to that of the early Rita, this is so much so that Rita is no longer deeply dissatisfied with her self and returns to her real name (Susan).

It is clear to the audience that Rita has changed dramatically, but the fact she has changed her name back to Susan comes as somewhat of a shock to the audience, this is partly due to the fact that Rita has hidden this from Frank and the audience but, because of Rita’s deep dissatisfaction with herself at the begging of the play, she is forced to take the ultimate step into insecurity and change her name, but by changing it back Rita is expressing aloud her new found confidence and approval of what she’s become, therefore taking the ultimate step in to confidence and security (the complete opposite of the early Rita).

Rita experiences a lot in the coarse of the play she becomes wiser and more mature towards the end of the play, and by the last scene Rita’s transformation into an intellectual middle class citizen is complete and it is clearly evident that she is not the same loud, socially naive liverpudlian that first came bursting in to the play (although the change is gradual).

Although Rita has by now changed significantly we can still see traces of her flamboyant personality even into the dying lines of the play “Tch come on Frank did y’ bugger the bursar”, as we can see Rita’s livelihood and eccentric personality live on despite her dramatic change. In a sense Rita represents positive change in the play and eventually reaches her goal, which is altered during the coarse of her journey.

Her tutor (Frank) plays a major role in Rita’s development, he represents negative change in the play, but also in a bias manner (from the author) is an ambassador to a drunk and socially courpt middle class. The first two scenes of act one are substantially important as they help us understand Rita’s character at the begging of the play, in these two scenes the audience is presented with several of the plays main themes and morals, they also by an idea evoked by Rita’s attitude of how the play would end.

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