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‘Educating Rita’ by Willy Russell Essay

Rita, Frank and their relationship change throughout the play. Rita’s education and confidence both grow as the story progresses. Frank’s attitude towards life declines dramatically en route for the middle of the play but there is hint of improvement at the end. Their relationship undergoes many changes during the play. They grow apart, slowly and eventually reach a point where their separation is much needed and inevitable, although their feelings towards each other are of affection once again.

At the beginning of the play Rita is a stereotypical working class girl, with little education and a lot of determination. She uses a lot of slang and colloquial language, ‘stupid bleedin” handle’ and ‘off me cake’, which shows her lack of education and her class.

Rita appears ro be a confident girl, but she uses humour to cover up her nerves, ‘that’s what I do. Y’ know when I’m nervous.’ Rita is also a lively, talkative person and very blunt and forthright. She shows this when she ‘takes the pencil from Frank and scribbles out the letter ‘S’.’

Rita has a particularly determined character. At the start of the play she knows that she wants an improved life, with choices and she knows an education will give her that. So she is making sure she is going to get it, even at the cost of her marriage. When Rita leaves Denny she still wants to learn and discuss her ‘Macbeth’ essay immediately.

At the beginning of ‘Act 2 Scene 2’ Rita is seen oiling Frank’s door. This shows her determination and that she follows through her word, does what she says she will.

Russell uses stage directions to show Rita’s energy, ‘the door bursts open and Rita flies in.’ The words ‘flies’ and ‘burst’ convey bubbly, lively movements and therefore her energetic character.

At the start of this play Frank is a stereotypical upper-middle-class man. He is apathetic sarcastic and relatively independent. Frank uses Standard English and Received Pronunciation, showing his high class and good education. He asks ‘pardon?’ instead of ‘what?’ and explains that the Open University is ‘supposed to embrace a more comprehensive studentship.’

Frank is not dependant on anyone, but he drinks a lot and I think that he relies on alcohol a great deal. Therefore I would not say he is totally independent.

Frank is very sarcastic and quick witted. He uses his sarcasm as a defence mechanism, or to make a point. He doesn’t use it nastily or to hurt anyone. ‘I sometimes get an urge to throw something through it…a student usually.’ This shows him using sarcasm for humour but it also shows his disinterested, lazy attitude to life. Frank is bored of his life but, unlike Rita, he cannot be bothered to change it. He finds himself dull and tells Rita that she is ‘the first breath of air that’s been in this room for years.’ He does not want Rita as a student as he sees her as a lot of work, this shows his lazy attitude. However, the audience could also see this as a selfless and considerate moment. He does not want to take Rita on as a student as he does not think he is capable of teaching her.

Frank is extremely clever and refers to high culture, such as ‘T.S Elliot’ and ‘Yeats’, showing his high education and understanding.

At the start of the play Frank is bored, funny, sarcastic, clever and shrewd.

Frank and Rita get to know each other well and are very close, at the beginning of the play. They flirt and compliment each other, ‘he doesn’t half get on my tits/Frank: Good. You’ll have to show me some evidence/Rita: Y’ dirty sod.’ And ‘Right now there’s a thousand things I’d rather do than teach, most of them with you my dear.’

They trust one another and show this through discussion of their personal issues, ‘I live with a girl. Ex-student. She’s very caring, very tolerant, admires me tremendously and spends a great deal of time putting her head in the oven.’ They then go on to discuss Julia and Franks relationship. Their ability to talk freely to each other shows that they are at ease in each other’s company, relaxed and confident around one another.

Nevertheless, their relationship is not always easy. It is hampered by their different frames of reference. At one point Frank thinks Rita is joking about T.S Elliot the poet, when in fact she is referring to Elliot Ness, ‘y’ know, the famous Chicago copper who caught Al Capone.’ At another point Rita is calling Frank a ‘Flora man’ from the advert for the butter: flora. Frank assumes she means flora as in flowers.

However, Frank and Rita have a mutual understanding of each other, which helps them work through and get beyond their misunderstandings. Their differences intrigue and fascinate one another. This helps keep their relationship alive and fresh.

In the middle of the play we see dramatic changes in Rita. Right at the beginning of ‘Act 2’ Russell indicates a change by Rita entering wearing ‘new second hand clothes.’

Rita is at a very difficult point in her change. She has come so far and cannot go back to where she used to be, but she is finding it difficult to carry on, she is half way and stuck in between two worlds. Rita chooses to persevere.

Rita has much more confidence and is using humour to hide behind less. She is more educated and has been influenced by lots of people over the summer.

Her confidence shows when she tells Frank about summer school. She explains how she asked a question even though everyone was looking at her and ‘two thousand people had seen me stand up.’ She then goes on to say, ‘after that I was askin’ questions all week.’ Before summer school Rita wouldn’t have dared do something like that.

As well as her confidence improving she is now using more Standard English, although still using colloquial language.

Summer has had some less positive effects on Rita, too. She has been very influenced by Trish and although she has now got a better understanding of literature she still does not have her own views. She has merely swapped Frank’s opinions for Trish’s opinions.

Frank comes back from holiday even more fed-up with life than before. Rita asks him what France was like, marvelling at the opportunity to go abroad. Frank gives an uninterested answer of ‘well – it was rather hot.’ He is very dismissive, taking for granted the occasion of going abroad and his answer is slightly hostile and cold.

He seems to be more apathetic and very low, not recognising that he has got so much going for him. ‘it is indeed because I have got so much going for me that I do it…I need the drink to help me step delicately through life.’ This comment shows that he is still using sarcasm, it shows his sad view on his life and he tells us that he ‘needs’ drink. This informs us that he has become very reliant on drink. He is worse than he was before, turning up to lectures drunk and not taking anything seriously. He does not even bother to hide the drink anymore. He carries it, in his briefcase, to lectures. The briefcase symbolises work, so to carry alcohol in it shows just how little he cares.

Frank now chooses to ignore his education; ”Rubyfruit Jungle” is excellent.’ He is reverting to how Rita was. Whereas, Rita now has a view, shows her understanding and expresses it formally. They have echoed each other.

Frank’s language has also changed. He is reiterating phrases from Rita, ‘completely off me cake,’ and he has picked up some of her slang. He is still sarcastic, but sometimes in a hostile, jeering way, like when he shouts names at Rita ‘Charlotte? Or Jane? Or Emily?’

At the mid-point in the play Frank is hopeless, he challenges Rita saying ‘and we’ll all live happily ever after?’ Saying this squashes dreams, is sarcastic and apathetic and takes a completely pessimistic outlook on life, his decline is continuous.

Their relationship dwindles when they meet again after summer. The changes in Rita have a big role to play in the downward spiral of their relationship.

Rita is becoming more independent, She needs Frank less, he begrudges her this and it causes tension. ‘Don’t y’ like me now that the little girl’s grown up, now that y’ can no longer bounce me on daddy’s knee an’ watch me stare back in wide eyed wonder at everything he has to say?’

They understand each other less and know little about each other’s lives. ‘It struck me there was a time you told me everything,’ Frank is wistful and shows a sense of longing. He feels Rita slipping away, ‘I can’t bear you anymore,’ he tells her, ‘you don’t have to put in a visit out of sentimentality.’ They no longer have a close relationship and Frank misses and feels bitter about that.

They become increasingly resentful towards each other. Frank start to get jealous and resentful of Trish, this feeling fuels further conflict. ‘Will you kindly tell Trish that I am not giving a tutorial to a Dalek.’ This remark shows coldness in their relationship, the warmth, flirting and friendly banter has gone.

At the end of the play Rita has more choices than before, she is educated, confident and able to think for herself.

Rita is undecided what the next step in her life should be, but she now has a choice and this is what she set out for: to be able to choose. ‘I might go to France. I might go to my mother’s. I might even have a baby. I dunno. I’ll make a decision, I’ll choose. I dunno.’

She is educated now and has passed her exam. Arguably more important is that she is no wise. She can think for herself, think logically and develop her own opinions. ‘You woulda loved it if I’d written Frank knows all the answers across me paper, wouldn’t y’?’ However, Rita did not and this shows her education and thinking skills.

She uses Standard English more now, such as ‘scholarly neckline.’ Again showing her education.

Rita is no longer hiding behind humour, but she is genuinely confident and still funny.

Probably the biggest change in Rita from beginning to end is that she now understands Frank’s views and realises he was and is on her side. ‘She places a Christmas card with the others already there.’ The card is a token of friendship and signifies her realisation that what she had was not all that valuable. Her realisation shows how she has matured, changed her way of thinking and now feels more kindly for Frank.

Frank is now sober and hints that he will make a change in his life. There is now some optimism. He is trying to think well of his move to Australia, ‘things are just beginning there’ this implies he will take this as an opportunity to start fresh, ‘it’d be good for us to leave a place that’s just finishing for one that’s just beginning.’

Frank accepts the changes in Rita and shows his thoughtful side when he gives her the dress.

He also has a realistic moment and says, ‘I was rather pissed when I bought it.’ He is not pretending to be a reformed character and he is reminding the audience of his drinking and old habits.

Frank is now using Standard English again, ‘metaphorically. And as it was metaphorically the sentence was reduced from the sack to two years in Australia.’

He is still humorous, ‘Forsters lager they call it,’ and is sarcasm is still there, but it is no longer hostile.

Although Frank is in a worse position than at the start of the play there is hint of improvement and a better life.

Rita’s response to Trish’s suicide and Frank’s realisation of the need to change has resulted in a greater mutual understanding and a friendlier relationship. ‘I knew how much it had come to mean to you.’ Frank did not like Rita in the middle of the play but understands why she was like that.

They both accept the changes in each other. Rita now appreciates all the help Frank gave her, ‘ I came to tell you you’re a good teacher.’ Frank realises her learnt a lot from Rita, too, ‘all I’ve ever done is taken from you. I’ve never given anything/Frank: that’s not true. You’ve…’

They understand that they have got to go their separate ways now, and move their lives on, but they part on good terms.

Rita begins as a stereotypical working-class girl, with a poor education, who hid behind humour. She goes through a series of changes and ends the play as a confident, wise, educated young lady, ready to make her own choices and get on with her life.

Frank begin as a upper-middle-class man, he was very sarcastic, had a poor attitude towards life and relied on drink. As the book progressed he developed a serious drinking problem, became more and more apathetic and finally reached a point where he was on the verge of being sack. He eventually starts to get things into perspective and hints at a brighter future. The relationship between Rita and Frank began well, they complimented and trusted one another. They drifted apart and argued in the middle, but reconciled their relationship and parted on good terms.

I think the main change in Rita was that she started with no choices, she had a hunger for more and great determination, which resulted in her gaining the ability to choose, and to choose wisely. I think this change in Rita was conveyed very well because as the story progresses we saw her make many decisions along the way. We saw how the choices she had to make got bigger and bigger and how her ability to deal with the choices got better and better. The book finished with her thinking about the biggest choice; whether to have a baby or not.

I think Frank’s character was portrayed well via his language and through his drinking habits.

I really enjoyed the book and thought Russell kept me interested by adding new details along the way, we learnt more about the character’s private lives as the story continued and this was an added interest. I think that the book had a good ending, as it was realistic. It showed how what they had done throughout the book and what choices they had made affected their position at the end of the book. This emphasised the theme of choice again.

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