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This Play is the story about a relationship between two completely different people.
Frank, a man with some drinking problems, has agreed to tutor a student from the Open University. He's a former poet, but nowadays he's drinking and going to the pub most of the time. The student he's going to tutor is Rita, a 26-year-old married woman from Liverpool. They like each other right away. Rita's husband, Denny, doesn't like Rita getting an education. Rita and Frank mostly talk about famous writers and poets, but also about their lives. Rita is easy to teach; her essays and opinions become more and more advanced. One night Denny burns Rita's books and she decides to move from him. Rita goes to summer school, and when she comes back, she's a lot more mature. Frank doesn't like it and tells Rita that she's far from educated, but Rita does not thing like him and they get into a big fight. At the end of the play Frank apologises and gives Rita a dress that he bought " for an educated woman I know".
Rita and Frank are the only two characters whom we see on stage, though other people are referred to by both of them. We hear about Denny, Rita's husband, about Julia, Frank's partner, and about Trish, Rita's flatmate, who attempts to kill herself. But it is Rita and Frank whom the audience gets to know best.
Rita is a working-class, twenty-six-year-old hairdresser who wants to enrol on a literature course at the Open University. It has been a difficult decision for her, as she had to give up her old lifestyle and at a final point also to break down all the contacts from her old life. She changes her life completely and gradually becomes absorbed by culture and literature. After her flatmate attempts suicide, she begins to realise, that all the answers cannot be found in art and literature. But she decides to continue as a student and finally passes her examination.
Frank, an university lecturer in English Literature, has got a drinking problem. Even dough he had one failed marriage and his present relationship with Julia is not an easy one, he appears to have a comfortable middle-class lifestyle and had also achieved some success as a poet. But his job bored him and by the end of the play he is really sent to Australia because of his drinking problem. Rita breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, the story of the play is the story of their developing, both as a teacher and student and also on a more personal level.
One of the main themes in the play is personal relationship. The play focuses on the way that Rita and Frank influence each other. We see Rita developing during the course of the pay. At the start, she is a nervous and cocky young woman who knows nothing about literature. We then see her become someone who acquires a superficial knowledge of the subject, but, by the end of the play, she has become a woman who is able to make wise and informed choices about the direction her life will take. Frank, on the other hand, does not really develop as much. Disillusioned and cynical at the start, the only progress he makes is downhill and, by the end of the play, he has effectively been dismissed from his post. At this point, Rita is about to embark on her new life, having passed her exams, whereas Frank is about to try resurrect his career in Australia. Even his contact with the bright and chirpy Rita has failed to halt his decline. In their conversations with each other, they also reveal much about their unsatisfactory relationships with their partners, Denny and Julia.
The second major theme that Willy Russell deals with is the clash of cultures. Rita comes from a working-class society which she has grown to despise as she feels it is stifling her, although the play does show us that it can be quite a warm and close-knit community. It is a culture that knows and cares little about literature, though Frank tries to show Rita that it does have its own culture and values. Frank, on the other hand, inhabits a middleclass academic world in which literature is seen to be important, even though he himself seems to have grown tired of it. We learn about these two cultures fro their conversations, though you may need to consult the notes to understand fully Frank's literary references and Rita's to 1980s' popular culture. Of course, you would not be alone, as neither Rita nor Frank always understands the other's remarks, particularly in the early scenes of the play. Rita is, however, determined to acquire middleclass culture and she sees education as the means to achieve this aim.
To answer the question whether or not Willy Russell actually wrote a love story as he intended to do, I consider certain aspects. I find two totally different main characters in Frank and Rita and therefore will be dealing with completely different ways of behaviour and reaction. By interpreting their statements and actions it might be possible to find some kind of conclusion.
To begin with it is possible to say that Educating Rita does not seem to be a love story in a common sense. Nevertheless there are signs that Frank becomes more and more interested in Rita and her fate. She has got a refreshing effect on him, which is caused by her naivety, enthusiasm and very own way of talking about and experiencing literature. In act 1, scene 2 he tells her how much he wished she had walked in twenty years before. Especially at the beginning of their acquaintance Rita is used to telling him almost everything about her life, very much so about private matters. But as she becomes more "educated" and changes her feelings towards literature, which becomes less important for her, Frank almost starts insisting on knowing everything about her situation.
In scene 8 she is late for the lesson, because she has just been thrown out by her husband, and Frank is very much concerned about her and her situation. But Rita is much more concerned about her Macbeth essay and is rather interested in Frank's opinion on it than in anything else. What she expects from Frank is criticism and support, whereas he wants to be allowed in taking part in her life. This scene already shows how different their intentions are.
Other signs of Frank's feelings towards Rita are given in scene 2 of act 2. She has been late for the lesson and Frank realizes that she changed her way of talking, is trying to talk and act in a more sophisticated manner. He is shocked by this development. There is also a touch of jealousy in this scene. Rita has been telling him about her conversation with other students particularly with one of them named Tyson/Tiger.
Frank: "Is there any point in working towards an examination if you are going to fall in love. (...) All right, but please stop burbling on about Mr Tyson."
Another time he is deeply hurt when he finds out that Rita had changed her job without having told him anything about it (Act 2, Scene 4).
How much he really feels for her becomes clear when he asks her to accompany him on his way to Australia. But Rita has already got her own ideas and plans and is ready to start her new life.
For a start there are elements of love, undoubtedly. Certainly on Frank's side, but there do not seem to be any on Rita's side. Two different people with different lives and expectations. Two people that are about to start their life new. They have exchanged things between one another and now they are ready to go separate ways.
Probably it is not so much of a love story, but a story about hope, a new beginning including emotional aspects and the meeting two different worlds.
Educating Rita brings to be a certain satisfaction about women education and their prospect for choice. I think something important to gain from the play is that the world over women still suffer in ignorance... They want choice and all of the benefits of education, yet they live without it, denied it because they are not boys. Rita shows us again how important it is for women to be educated and how much more their is to gain from it... We need education, before motherhood so that we can be who we are before we become what we are. It's about choice and Russell's play highlights this. Rita is a role model for choice making women the world over... If we choose education, we can choose anything.
Educating Rita a play about change?
Educating Rita, written by Willy Russell, is a play about Rita, a working class hairdresser who yearns for a change in her life and to be better educated; also it is about a dissipated literature professor who tutors Rita to earn some extra money.
Many of the changes in the play occur mainly due to the ways Rita and Frank interact and change each other. In ways this play is about many aspects that centralise on choice, culture, priorities and education. There can be many different reader responses to the play and what it is about but I will compare these with authorial intention. From this I will conclude whether this play is mainly about how education changed Rita for the better, and in what ways has it had a negative effect and what has getting to know Rita taught Frank.
At first Rita is uneducated. Her background is the working class, but she wants to change her life for a better way of living. She has the will to learn very hard and she wants to reach her aims. Here we see Frank confronted by Rita whom is a pupil wanting nothing more or less than a total education e.g. Frank asks, "What can I teach you?" and Rita replies, "Everything." Later on she seems to think that she has acquired and learnt everything. "I've got what you got Frank, and you don't like it."
At the beginning he finds himself faced with an unexpectedly fresh and uncluttered mind. Rita tests Frank's intellectual talents to the full, by requiring constant justification and explanation of statements that would usually be taken for granted and accepted in a conversation between a student and a tutor. Frank is intrigued by her freshness in Act One Scene One showing that what Rita possesses is individuality, "I think you're the first breath of air that's been in this room for years." But to his dismay she comes near to losing her identity at the end.
Rita rejects her working class origin and changes her name from Susan to Rita. During the story you can realise the changes in Rita. At the beginning she isn't interested in Howard's End and she couldn't interpret books that Frank lent her correctly. Rita is too subjective and you can see the influence of her social background, such as when she stops reading Howard's End because E.M. Forster quotes in the book that, "we are not concerned with the poor." This shows that she was very subjective at the time. Also she lacked courage and confidence to go to Frank's dinner because of the academic class and was afraid of talking to the other students. Changing her life Rita leaves her husband who objects to Rita getting an education. One step was that Rita interprets the books more objectively and went to the theatre. While Rita has lost her husband she wanted to be changed by Frank's help but he was worried because he likes her natural character.
The biggest step for Rita was the summer school. At the summer school Rita has learned much about authors and she comes in contact with students. Frank is very impressed of her abilities. She changes her lifestyle with new clothes and a new hair colour and was also influenced of her flatmate Trish. We then see that Rita has attained a new role model, her flatmate. She is someone who influences Rita to change in many ways. One way is she encourages Rita to change her voice, "As Trish says there is not a lot of point in discussing beautiful literature in an ugly voice." She is changing herself by becoming more like others, Rita is losing her individuality and originality mainly towards Trishs opinions. "Me an' Trish sat up last night and read them. She agrees with me...what makes it more-more...What did Trish say--?" She has become less original intellectually and usually just repeats facts from other people especially Trish to whom she refers to quite often throughout the play.
She seems a lot more arrogant to a point where she only talks about facts and repeats other people's quotes. At one particular time where Frank is about to introduce her to Blake she disregards it as, "done him." It's a monotonous, non-sentimental and non-subjective answer unlike the old Rita who asked Frank whether he had read work by T.S. Elliot was more excited by literature. "Have you read his stuff...All of it...Every last syllable." Frank realises this and explains to Rita that she has changed from her innocent freshness to becoming an echo to other people. "And your views I still value. But, Rita, these aren't your views." Rita blatantly proves this in the next line by saying that she had talked to a wide variety of people, read other books and consulted a wide variety of opinions and came up with an answer, an answer which contains no personal thought. Instead of being subjective, innocent and unique she is now standardised in her judgement. This is what Frank feared, Rita losing her individuality and uniqueness.
Rita changed her job because she thought that she could talk in the bistro about more important things than the hairdresser job, she also begins to drift away from Frank by being less personal. This can be seen as seen in Act Two Scene Four. "I can look after myself...I wanna read and understand without havin' to come running to you every five minutes." This proves that she is beginning to separate from Frank because she doesn't come to tutorials on time and if she's late she would try to leave, "No-honestly, Frank-I know I've wasted your time. I'll see y' next week, eh?" Before she used to say that she could get through the weeks if she knew she had Franks tutorial to look forward to. Also she become less public about her life to Frank, such as the fact that she had changed jobs and didn't tell Frank. She doesn't discuss personal matters anymore. At one point near the beginning she used to tell Frank everything, "It struck me that there was a time when you (Rita) told me everything."
One of the first changes that we come across in the play is when Rita realises herself is in Scene 5 where Rita says, "I've begun to find me-an' it's great y' know, it is Frank." Also further down the page when she says, "But she (the old Rita) can't, because she's gone, an' I've taken her place." This shows that Rita herself believes that she understands more about literature and she seems to understand that things have changed.
We also see a certain lack of confidence in Rita, which is displayed in Act One Scene Seven. In this Scene she doesn't go to Franks dinner because she believes that she wouldn't be able to fit in with the other guests, "An' all the time I'm trying to think of things I can say, what I can talk about." Later on in Act Two Scene One when Rita comes back from after summer she says that she was dead scared when she arrived a summer school. She didn't know anyone and she was going to come home on the first day but she didn't, she had acquired a confidence in herself. The old Rita would have left straight away. A few lines on she mentions that a tutor had approached her and asked her about Ferlinghetti, "...are you fond of Ferlinghetti?' It was right on the tip of me tongue to say, 'Only when it's served with Parmesan cheese.' But, Frank, I didn't." Rita is becoming more reformed, instead of making sarcastic remarks she has started to make interesting conversation when people talk to her but now we come across the fact that she is losing her innocent point of view. There is also a change in the way that she talks, 'Oh, I dunno, I forget now, cos after that I was askin' questions all week, y' couldn't keep me down." Her language is not as bad; she doesn't swear as much as before and is becoming to sound more educated. Also she has stopped smoking, a ritual commonly related to the working class society.
It is also visible that Rita is beginning to fit in with the other students because she stops on her way to the tutorial to talk to students on the lawn. "I started to talk to students on the lawn." This then proves that she may have become over-confident because she said to the student that his opinion was wrong. "...I heard one of them saying that as a novel he preferred 'Lady Chatterly' to 'Sons and Lovers.' I thought, I can keep on walking an' ignore it, or I can put him straight." At the beginning Rita seemed to have assumed that there was a boundary between educated people and the working-class society. She used to be intimidated by them. "You used to be quite wary of them."
By the end of the play Rita, having a mind trained to think although losing her originality, has acquired a confidence that allows her to make her own decisions and she has a wider choice of direction, "I dunno, I might go to France. I might go to me mothers. I might even go to France. I might even have a baby. I'll make a decision. I'll choose." She is now presented with choice, which is what she wanted at the beginning.
It is also visible that not everything in Rita has changed because her decisions are still almost the same. "I know what clothes to wear, what wine to buy, what plays to see and what papers and books to read. I can do without you." Before she didn't know what to wear and wine to buy and so on.
The final change we can see is that Rita seems to prefer young classy people such as Tiger and Trish. "...I find a lot of people I mix with fascinating; they're young, and they're passionate about things that matter. They're not trapped-they're too young for that. And I like to be with them." When she says 'they're too young for that' the authorial intention could be that she is referring to Frank, and saying that he is too old and he is trapped which is why she doesn't seem to spend much time with him anymore.
We also see how Rita moves from merely imitating Frank's language to understanding and manipulating it. Moreover, she not only takes ownership of her own education, but she also teaches her professor a great deal in the process.
Although this play is mainly centralised around Rita and the ways she has changed in her attitudes to her class, other people, her choices, her priorities and culture, Frank has also learned from her presence.
One example is when Rita constantly questions Franks drinking and tells him its bad for him, this way it seems a subtle way of saying stop drinking although Frank is objectionable saying that Rita cannot reform him. "It'll kill y', Frank...just that I thought you'd started reforming yourself." Frank replies, "Under your influence? Yes Rita-if I repent and reform, what do I do when your influence is no longer her?"
Another time is when she tells Frank to oil the door; she's trying to change him without really realising it. "It's that bleeding handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!" Also there is a sense that Frank in a way used to control Rita at the beginning because she was inexperienced, but when she becomes educated she mentions that she doesn't want to come running to him every five minutes.
In many ways there is a lot of change some for the better, such as Ritas gain in confidence and some for the worse, such as the loss of her individuality. As well as the few but significant changes in Frank as well as the other aspects of the play which explores cultures, choice, priorities, education and changes; but overall I would argue that, yes, this is a play about change.
Dr. Frank Byrant a university lecturer is in his early fifties. He works at an open university to earn some extra money in order to pay for his drinking habit. He is supposed to teach a twenty-six-year-old young woman called Rita. She's a Liverpudlian hairdresser and although she did not get much of an education at school quite intelligent. She was brought up in a working class area where education was not regarded very high. Yet despite her education she has a mind of her own and expresses her opinions.
Rita has always felt that there was more to life than everyday routine. She wants to start a better life but she soon notices that her poor education is standing in her way. In the end she becomes so unhappy that she decides to start taking lessons at the Open University to acquire this education. She tells her teacher Frank that she would like to learn what she has missed. She wants to be able to talk about art and culture.
Rita finds her working class environment narrow and confining. She is frustrated, that people around her have so inflexible attitudes. She doesn't just want to be a traditional wife or mother. She even suspects that people around her feel threatened by her desire for change, as if she were rejecting their life styles and values. She knew that a new education could change her life completely, but her wish was so strong that she was prepared to take the risk.
Rita is alert, observant and eager to learn and she loves literature very much. But Rita is also a very naive person that cannot distinguish between literature of acknowledged good quality and popular fiction. Frank soon realises that Rita is a very subjective person and ignorant of the accepted code of literary criticism. He knows in order to pass her exams she will have to suppress her emotional response to literature. But he is also aware of the danger that she might become like all the other students who only give him the conventional opinions of literary critics rather than her own feelings and opinions. Because he doesn't want Rita to loose her originality he tries to persuade her to stop the course but Rita insists in going on with the course.
Rita's home life gradually becomes more and more difficult. She acts against her husband's wishes, who wants her to have a child. Rita attacks this system, which denies working class people to have a choice of what to do with their lives when talking to Frank. Frank causes an even worse crisis when he invites Rita and her husband Denny to a dinner party. Denny refuses to come so Rita goes on her own. But standing outside Frank's house she realises that she cannot go in. She notices that she doesn't belong to the working class anymore but neither to Frank's world either. She decides to go to the pub and join her family. She has already decided to give up her studies when her mother starts crying and making remarks appoint about how disappointed she is with her own life. This changes Rita's mind again and she becomes even more determined according her studies.
When Denny finally finds out that she's still taking the pill against his wishes he burns all her books and gives her the ultimatum to either stop her courses or to move out. But by now Rita's courses have become so important to her that she cannot stop them and so she moves out.
Half way through the play Rita attends a summer school in London and comes back a changed person. She has become much more self- confident and has learned a lot about her subject. Rita has now found the better culture she was seeking for. She has learned to discuss literature in controlled analytic terms and to suppress her passionate reactions. She starts copying the life styles of educated people such as her flatmate Trish. For a while she has given Franks teaching a meaning and a sense of purpose but now the old Rita has practically disappeared and she now longer needs him. Gradually their positions are reversed: Rita turns into an independent academic person, while her tutor is growing more and more dependent on her. Rita is forming other relationships and is hardly showing any interest in his person. Besides she is now more interested in arts and literature than in any other people. Rita's development makes him even more aware of how destructive traditional methods of teaching literature can be. During a quarrel Frank accuses Rita of having found a new superficial culture and that all what she is doing is imitating others. She accuses him and the middle class altogether of preferring the working class to remain uneducated so that they can be patronised. After Rira's exams Frank is packing for Australia when Rita returns to thank him. Finally she realises that he was right after all and that she was so hungry for education and culture that she accepted life styles and opinions of educated people unquestioningly. She now knows that Frank only tried to retain hear honesty and spontaneity. Rita understands now that to lead a more meaningful life she must do more than talk about literature and copy educated people.
Frank recognises the old Rita and asks her to accompany him to Australia. But Rita has only regained control of her own life and does not want to be pressed into making any decisions yet. For her, education has been a liberating experience after all.
Educating Rita expresses Russell's resentment towards those who believe that art is only for a highly educated minority. He also attacks the elitism and the "literature industry" such as producers, directors, editors etc.