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Educating Rita College

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“Y’ have to change from the inside, don’t y’, y’know like I’m doin”. Educating Rita is a play by Willy Russell that focuses mainly on the theme of education. The play also touches on the themes of the class system and Willy Russell’s own life. The plot is about a 26 year old woman, Rita, who is unhappy about where she is in life. She is a lively, honest and open person. She craves an education because she feels that this will open up more options for her and expand her horizons.

She didn’t do very well at school because she just followed the crowd but then she realizes she is stuck where she is because of that decision so she makes a concious decision to change from the inside and break out from the crowd and become educated. In the first scene, the audience are introduced to Frank, a professor at the university, and his drinking habits which suggests he is also unhappy with his life because he could drink to escape reality. ‘He pulls out a pile of books to reveal a bottle of whiskey’.

The audience are also introduced to Rita, who enrols on a course at the Open Universtiy. “Do you get a lot of students like me? ” Rita talks to Frank about why she wants to learn and how she wants to break free of her old lifestyle and change completely but a lot of their conversations are confused because of their different cultural and social backgrounds. An example of one of these differences is that when Frank asks Rita about Yeats the poet, Rita assumes he is talking about Yeats the wine bar.

Willy Russell includes these differences to make the play interesting and also to look at the theme of different social class’s and their opinion. During the very first two scenes, there is lots of confusion and misunderstanding between Rita and Frank. “‘You are? ‘ ‘What am I? ‘”. Their misunderstandings are caused by them being from different backgrounds and cultures; Frank is from an upperclass background whereas Rita is from a working class family.

This helps to make the play interesting as their characters compliment each other; Rita is outgoing and talkative, being the complete opposite of Franks character. “Whats your wife like? “. However, by the end of the play, their roles have almost swapped as Rita becomes more uptight and focused, not wanting to discuss ‘trivial’ things such as personal lifes and Frank acts younger and more outgoing. After their initial meeting, Rita returns to Frank after she has written her first essay and then in scene three, we, the audience, learn that Denny, Rita’s Husband does not approve of the course Rita is doing.

Rita and Denny married young but Denny is content with their lives and wants a baby whereas Rita wants more out of life; she wants to discover herself through education before having a child. We later are told that Denny burns Rita’s Books and essays when he discovers she is still on the pill. Rita doesn’t want to have to be what other people expect of her but what she wants to be. In scene five, Frank joins Rita at the theatre to see an amatuer production of ‘The Seagull’. This is a sign of Rita’s education and skill progressing but also of her relationship growing with Frank.

In scene six, after been invited to Frank and Julia’s dinner party, Rita stands outside and sees everyone through the window in ‘posh’ upperclass cclothes sipping fine wine and feels she doesn’t fit in with them so she leaves a note and doesn’t go in. In my opinion, this is the moment in the play that she realises that although she has left the working class culture in order to be educated, she still knows that she is not yet educated enough to fit in with the upper class social circles and cultures. “Y’ were all sipping drinks an’ talkin’ an’ laughin’ an’ I couldn’t come in.

“There are better songs that we could be singing” when her mother says this, I think that it is a metaphor for Rita’s character because she doesn’t find a better song to sing but just a different one; instead of copying working class people and their values in life she simply swaps this for copying upper class educated people. At the very end of act one, Denny throws Rita out of the house because she is still on the pill and won’t stop seeing Frank once a week to complete her Open University course so Rita goes to live with her mother.

This is another turning point because Rita has chosen education over her relationship, and there’s no going back now. Over the course of the next of scenes, Frank and Rita warm towards each other and start to understand each others jokes. “Right now there’s a thousand things I’d rather do than teach; most of them with you, young lady… ” They become confident with each other to and begin discuss personal issues with each other and become quite flirtacious. “‘… Gets right on my tits’ ‘You must show me the evidence'”. This shows they are getting on well and that their relationship is developing.

An example of this is when Frank accomponies Rita to the theatre. When Rita doesn’t show up to the dinner party, their relationship drops but by the end of act 1, they are very good together and compliment each other well; they are able to help each other out and talk at ease with each other. One of the major turning points in the play is the changes in Rita’s behaviour, personality and attidute towards life. These changes start to occur at the beginning of second act as a result of her education; at the start she copies everything from everyone she knows – working class people.

However she wants to change and be different but she just ends up following a different crowd of friends – ‘educated upper class’ people. Some of the changes she goes through are conscious decisions she makes to fit in with others, while others she goes through aren’t. Rita starts to talk using a ‘posh’ voice compared to act one where she would use a lot of slang. This shows that she is changing everything to fit in with her knew friends. She also begins to talk with other students unlike the first act where she would avoid them; this is a sign that she feels more like them and her opinion has changed.

Frank reacts to this by letting know Rita he is not happy with her changing herself in order to become ‘educated’ in the way she desires. I think that Willy Russell wanted the audience to react to this change by starting to dislike the way Rita acts and changes by seeing that if people change the way they look or act, it doesn’t change them inside. When Rita and Frank argue over the interpretation of the poem ‘Blossom’, it shows she is becoming a lot more confident and doesn’t just take what Frank says, she doesn’t need his opinion anymore.

However, she is still taking an opinion from someone else; Trish and some other students. ‘Quite acceptable, trendy stuff about Blake; but there’s nothing of you in there. ‘ ‘Or maybe Frank, y’mean there’s nothing of your views in there. ‘” The level of conflict develops and it shows that Rita is starting to think for herself instead of just following everything Frank says. She is feeling more confident with herself in the educated world. In scene four, Rita is significantly late for her tutorial with Frank for the first time; however she would never have been late at the start, she said that looking forward to their sessions was what got her through the week.

Seeing Frank is not the most important thing to her anymore. Moreover, when Rita leaves her job as a hairdresser to work in a trendy bistro she doesn’t let Frank know; she says she doesn’t want to bother with irrelavent detail anymore. This is a complete opposite from act one where she was more interested in ‘irrelavent detail’ than anything else and would of told Frank everything. “We talk about whats important, Frank, and leave out the boring details for those who want them. ” This is evidence that their relationship is drifting apart and that she is becoming stuck-up and arrogant.

When she speaks she also starts to use ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ which shows she is not talking about her own views but those of who she mixes with. In scene five, Frank says he is going to change his name to Mary Shelly, the author of ‘Frankenstein’ because Rita changed her name from Susuan to Rita. He uses sarcasm to tease Rita; he thinks by educating Rita he has created a monster, not unlike Mary Shelly’s creation. Rita calls Frank a ‘crazy mad piss artist’ as a joke in act one but now, she is calling him a ‘Mr self-pitying piss artisy’ being nasty; thinking that she is better than Frank.

However when Rita passes her exam, which she didn’t think she could, she realises how far she come over the course of seeing Frank and just how much he has taught her and realises that Frank has given her what she wanted – an education! “All I’ve ever done is take from you”. She takes things seriously which she never would of done at the start of the play; she has changed. When Rita discovers Trish’s suicude attempt, she realises that being educated isnt going to make her happy and that trying to be somebody else by changing the way that she talks, looks, acts and even her name will just make her false and unnatural.

These changes in Rita affect hers and Frank’s relationship greatly; he feels that he no longer knows her and she changes so much she is nothing like the Rita at the beginning, the Rita that Frank became friends with or the Rita that Denny fell in love with. Throughout the play, Rita’s character is portrayed through stage directions which builds up a very strong, vivid image in the mind of the reader. ‘Rita flounces into the room and walks over to the desk. ‘Rita Bursts into room and dumps her bag on the desk’. Over the course of the play however her changes can be noticed just by examining the stage directions. ‘Rita enters and walks slowly across the room’. I think that the points Willy Russel is trying to get across are; to let people know about his own life, there are many autobiographical elements found in Rita’s character, for example, he was also a hairdresser before he went back into further education.

I think that he was also trying to tell people that they can change their situation and don’t just have to accept your position in life, to get people to consider education, to highlight class issues in society that would have been a lot more relevent in the time that Educating Rita was published and to raise awareness that you can change your life if you make a concious decision, like Rita, to do so. Reading this play has made me think about and consider carefully my education; to make the most of it and realise that people can change their position in life.

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