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Do you think Rita’s education is for the better

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  • Pages: 7
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  • Category: Education

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When Willy Russell wrote Educating Rita there was a clearly defined class system in society. Many working class people didn’t have the same access to education that the middle class had. A lot of his views are reflected in issues that arise throughout the play. The key way he does this is through the main character Rita and the changes she goes through while getting an education. Through all his characters he shows how education can have negative and positive effects.

When Rita first appears in the play her language is very blunt and direct, in fact her first lines are, ‘i’m comin in aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the door. You wanna get’d fixed! ‘. This shows that she speaks her mind but also, from her accent and manner you can tell she is working class as she doesn’t know how to act in this situation. This abrupt entrance would shock an audience and I believe, through Rita, Russell portrays a stereotypical working class person in this way to show contrast between what she is like now and how she will become.

He wants people to make assumptions over her intelligence so he can make a point when she proves them wrong. As she becomes more educated she extends her vocabulary and her language is more sophisticated like that of a middle class person. For example she quotes her flatmate ‘More resonant than – purely contemporary poetry in that you can see in it a direct line through to nineteenth-century traditions of – of like wit an’ classical allusion. ‘ Here Rita proves how her education has given her understanding of complex language which would impress an audience.

Russell shows that working class people are not necessarily stupid because they haven’t had the same teaching and that they can be educated. However, she is using her increased insight of vocabulary to quote other people’s opinions, not her own. By the end of the play she realises that her own views are intelligent and just as valid and she is able to use the knowledge she gained to express them. ‘Magic, isn’t it? She spends half her life eatin’ wholefoods an’ health foods to make her live longer, and the other half trying to kill herself.

From what she says here I can tell she is voicing her own opinions again as her language is a lot more natural but this time she uses more complex sentences showing her increased education from the beginning of the play. For the audience, it would be a surprise to see how far Rita has come as the general perception of the working class is unintelligent and uneducable. Willy Russell challenges these views and in doing so challenges society’s stereotypes as he wants people to recognise the working class can be intelligent and should have equal chances at an education.

When Rita first comes to the university she had had little previous education, despite this she is very intelligent. For an essay she is asked how she would resolve the staging difficulties inherent in a production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. Whereas more educated students would look deep into the problem and write a technical solution, Rita manages to answer it in one sentence: ‘Do it on the radio’. Although this would not be what the examiner wanted Willy Russell is trying to show that it isn’t just educated people that are intelligent as they are two separate things.

Working class people can be intelligent but they can only be educated if they are given the chance. Throughout the play she becomes more educated but she ignores her own intelligence because she believes what she is learning over her old opinions. She quotes other peoples phrases instead of deciding for herself, for example she quotes her teacher ‘He said- what was it ….? He said, ‘Parody is merely a compliment masquerading as humour. ‘ She is educated so can understand it but chooses this over using her intelligence to form her own opinions because she considers them second rate to that of a middle class person.

Russell is trying to show us that, even though Rita can’t see it, her opinions are still valid and shouldn’t be disregarded just because she is not as educated and comes from a working class background. In fact Rita can see things in a whole different way that’s as intelligent as an educated person’s perspective which would surprise audiences and change their outlook. By the end she discovers the middle class weren’t the perfect people she thought they were and so she doesn’t feel second rate which causes her to acknowledge her own intelligence and opinions.

This allows her to express her own opinions and challenge other’s views. For example she tells a group of university students ‘tryin’ to compare ‘Chatterley’ with ‘Sons and Lovers’ is like tryin’ to compare sparkling wine with champagne’ Willy Russell shows that people’s preconceptions of the working class can prove to be unfounded and that they should have the chance to prove this. At the beginning of the play Rita has a great admiration for educated middle class people as they embody all that she so badly wants, particularly their freedom to choose in life.

Her attitude to working class people is very different. Although she feels she has a responsibility to defend them, she has some resentment as she sees they have held her back in life. Rita’s character shows how the working class culture affected her attitude to learning and her lack of confidence in her own ability which resulted in her poor education. ‘Nah, they tried their best I suppose, always tellin’ us we stood more of a chance if we studied. But studyin’ was just for whimps, wasn’t it? See if I’d started takin’ school seriously I would have had to become different from me mates, an’ that’s not allowed.

Frank: By whom? Rita: By your mates, by your family, by everyone. ‘ This insight into Rita’s working class life shows that as a culture their attitude to education prevents them from progressing. However I believe this is really due to the middle class having no faith in people from poor low educated backgrounds, which leads them to doubt their own capabilities as Rita did at the beginning. I think Willy Russell uses his character Rita to try to change these opinions as he came from such a background and believes it is unfair that everyone doesn’t have equal opportunities.

I think he tries to get his point across by getting the audience to sympathise with Rita and so be more willing to change their opinions. Throughout the whole of the play, the thing that makes her succeed out of all the people in her position is her immense willpower. Without a determined personality she would not have been able to get an education and I think that is what Willy Russell is trying to show. You needed to be very committed to get past the barrier dividing the two classes and a lot of people, like Rita’s friends and family, just didn’t have that.

I think Russell believed that there shouldn’t be this wall of resistance from the middle class people and that everyone should have equal opportunities and this is reflected in his play. It is undeniable that education changed Rita’s life throughout the play. At one stage it has quite a negative effect as it is like she lost her identity to try to become what she saw as being ‘better’. However at the end she finds herself again but it is because of her education that she could go on the journey of self-discovery.

Her improved understanding of the middle class leaves her less nai?? ve and she no longer strives to be a part of what she first saw as a perfect world so she ends up happier in herself. The experience also leaves her open to more opportunities in life which is really the main thing she wanted from it. Therefore I think Rita’s education played a positive role in her life and so was for the better. The play is essentially about a working class woman with little schooling getting an education with predominantly middle class people.

Even though the class situation is very different today than when Willy Russell wrote Educating Rita, the thing of ongoing relevance is that education gives people the chance to better their lives. I think the play reflects Russell’s view that education is something that should be available to everyone rich or poor. Despite having a bubbly personality Rita has to overcome her belief that she isn’t clever enough to get an education which was very much the feeling of the entire working class at the time.

However the dialogue at the beginning of the play and the fact she passes her exams shows her fears are unfounded. Willy Russell uses his play to show audiences their true capabilities because I think he wants to make the point that if middle class people don’t believe in them how are they supposed to have any confidence in themselves. The main reason Rita, and in reality most of the working class, wanted to be middle class was the romantic notion that it was a life of freedom, free of constraints.

However she soon realises this allusion to be false as she finds fitting in with their way of life very restricting. For example she finds it difficult to produce an exam deemed acceptable and worth a good grade. In fact Rita’s tutor Frank strays increasingly onto the path of self-destruction throughout the play and her flatmate turns suicidal. I think through all of this Willy Russell is trying to show that actually as a culture the middle class are also trapped as they are bound by the system and have to conform to it’s rules.

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