Comedies can often use satire to achieve their purpose, which is to make their play humorous. Satire contains many different language features and which criticize or ridicule an individual’s behavioural flaws. Sarcasm, irony and parodies are examples which can help a genre to be categorised by the use of satire.
In _Educating Rita_, we get a satirical look at life, love, education and gender relations. We also get a view of social stratification based on social class. The play follows the learning journey experienced by Rita and also Frank. Although the play’s main plot is the educating of Rita, we also see Frank learning new things as he interacts with Rita. The language used throughout _Educating Rita_ is a key element to portraying to the audience how much the character’s develop and satirical devices within the spoken discourse help to do this.
The play starts with the audience getting to know a bit about Frank and what sort of person he is- carefree, most likely drunk. As Frank picks up a call from his partner Julia, he uses a lot of sarcastic remarks such as _”Darling, you could incinerate ratatouille, radiate it, cook it in the ovens of hell, napalm the bloody stuff and still it wouldn’t be cooked!”_ there is a lot of hyperbole used here to get across how he feels about the meal and it sounds like he is mocking Julia by stating what she plans on cooking is boring and simple. So although this is used for a comical effect, it can also be quite cruel, which is common in comedy; a lot of humour is often based on cruelty and negativity.
When the audience first see Rita, she comes across as a stereotypical working class Liverpudlian woman. She does not shy away from talking about the erotic painting on the wall as soon as she enters the room. Social convention urges us to remain discreet about such sensitive topics especially around people we don’t know too well, however Rita does not understand these social mannerisms; she say’s what is on her mind, when it’s on her mind. The sexual topic here is a satirical element and also makes the audience laugh as Rita comes out with some very risqué comments; _”-look at those tits.” “Because this was like the porn of its day, wasn’t it?” “this is the sort of thing they would have perved over in those days, isn’t it?”_ The audience laugh, because it is common to find something funny which is different from daily social interactions; Rita, being from the working class, does not know how to differentiate between what to say in public and what not to. We see how naïve she is in this scene.
In Act 1 Scene 4, Rita responds to Frank’s questioning of the whereabouts of her essay by telling him that she doesn’t have it; to this Frank says “_Don’t tell me! Last night, whilst you were asleep a couple of errant Oxbridge dons broke into your premises and appropriated your essay for their own highly dubious ends.”_ Frank employs sarcasm in this remark and it is quite mocking and degrading of Rita as he is saying that students from Oxbridge would want to use her essay, whereas we all know that Rita is not yet capable of writing such high quality essays, because she has just started the course. We get to know more about Frank’s character through this remark, as he is very sarcastic which can cause others to feel belittled by him. It also seems that Frank is trying to get a reaction from Rita as he knows she is not a restricted woman and if it was any other time she might have reacted differently to Frank’s comment to how she actually did, which was not much of a reaction at all and eventually tells Frank the real reason why she doesn’t have her essay- “It’s burnt.”
The play contains small hints that there is a little romantic connection between the two characters, especially Frank’s towards Rita. He quite often comments on her youthfulness and gives her compliments, which Rita dismisses and does not really consider them to be flirty remarks. At one point in the play Rita says “I’m not gonna try an’ rape y’ in the middle of The Seagull.” And Frank’s reply to this is “what a terrible pity. You might just have made theatre exciting for me again.” Frank doesn’t say abruptly that he would like to be in a relationship with Rita; he twists his words in a sarcastic way to make it seem less obvious and also Rita does not take his comment seriously.
The social and political side of this play are affected and shown using satirical devices, as the distinction between the working class and middle class are portrayed as almost opposites. The stereotypical view of the classes is talked about constantly when Rita says the middle class don’t mid swearing and they know what kind of wine to buy etc. The changes in Rita’s character are portrayed through her development in literature, which also means she goes to the theatre which is a middle class hobby. So there is irony here because Rita talks about herself being from the working class but ends up participating in middle class hobbies.
The book “Ruby Fruit Jungle” is quite a significant part to the play. Although it just seems like another look, it explains the difference between what type of literature Frank enjoys and what Rita enjoys. At the beginning of Act 1 Scene 5 we see Frank reading “Ruby Fruit Jungle”. This is ironic as earlier in the pay Rita accepted that it is not real literature, but now we see Frank- a very educated middle class man, reading it. The play follows Rita’s educational journey, but parts like this also show that Frank is learning new things as well from Rita.
Near the end of Act 2 Scene 1 the mocking flips and it is Rita now making sarcastic remarks towards Frank. She says “_you don’t do Blake without doing Innocence and Experience, do y’?_” and Frank replies with “_No. Of course._” The use of these short sentences by Frank shows that he feels subdued and Rita’s remark make him seem a bit foolish. Also in this scene Rita recites a parody of the poem “The Sick Rose”. This parody is used to make fun of the poem in an imitating and satirical way. We also know that if someone told Rita this spoof before her course or during the beginning of it, she wouldn’t have understood it; however she now finds things funny that the middle class would find funny.
Willy Russell uses satirical methods to get across the comical theme of _Educating Rita_ and the use of irony and sarcasm are common traits of the play as it shows how the Frank and Rita develop as characters.