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Educating Rita

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Introduction

How does Willy Russell present issues surrounding class in the opening scenes of Educating Rita? Written by Julia Parsons Willam Russel is a British playwright who is eminent for the production of many plays; his best known works are Educating Rita, Blood Brothers and Shirley Valentine. Russell was born and raised in Whinston, on the outskirts of Liverpool. He came from a working class background and some of his experiences as a youngster are reflected in his works, such as within the play Educating Rita. As a young adult, Russell only had experience and knowledge of manual work and left college with having only achieved one O-Level in English Literature. Being from a working class family, his mother had then suggested the concept of training to become a woman's hairdresser. This was a typical working class job which had low pay and was generally looked down upon. Russell felt trapped due to his working class status; he was still unsatisfied with his lifestyle and began to seek a career that provided greater opportunities to learn and make a greater contribution to society. He was a young person who showed initiative and soon took action and decided to become a student. Though despite the efforts that he was making, Russell's life was still greatly impacted by his social class; he couldn't afford student fees and the Education Authorities refused to fund him or offer a scholarship. However, he remained adamant that he was going to break the class boundaries and achieved this by spending some time working in Fords Car Company to fund his studies. As a result of his determination, by the age of twenty, Russell had enough qualifications to become employed as a teacher. Indeed, this is where he got his inspiration for the characters of Rita (a hairdresser) and Frank (a lecturer) because he had experienced of these careers and an insight into the emotions that they would've felt. ...read more.

Middle

Throughout beginning of the play, Rita refuses to sit down and goes straight to the window where she admires the view and looks down at the students who are studying on the grass. This is what Rita dreams of being-A 'real' student! For majority of the time she wanders around Frank's room, often pacing back and forth between the window and his desk and during the rare times when Rita is sat down, she is often fidgety. An Instance of this is when she sharpens pencils one after another; this shows that Rita hasn't been disciplined, but also shows that she is excited about the prospects that may lie ahead. This also shows that although a bond has grown between Rita and Frank, she is still slightly uncomfortable in this environment and standing above Frank allows her to feel in control of the situation. Despite the obvious class division between Rita and Frank, Russell has begun to break down this barrier by displaying the similarities between the two characters. Even though they have completely different backgrounds and lives, Rita and Frank are much the same and have severe problems; both have problems with their relationships and have developed bad habits as a form of escapism. The audience already know that Frank is a heavy drinker but also learn that Rita is a smoker. In the opening scene of the play Rita and Frank are seen to sharing a cigarette, this again reinforces the Rita's class because during this time period wealthy people would've smoked pipes. Nevertheless, this technique is used by Russell to show that wealth doesn't matter if a person doesn't have their sanity and happiness. The cigarette is used to bring the classes together and to show the audience that they can socialise well with each other. Once again, Rita's lack of knowledge is shown when she discusses the connection between smoking and cancer 'But they're all cowards'. ...read more.

Conclusion

This use of exaggerated language targets the audience's emotions and they themselves begin to miss Rita. During the period when she is absent from Franks life, his drinking spirals out of control. As a consequence of this, he behaves inappropriately during a lecture and it's quite clear that he isn't in a suitable state to be teaching. Prior to this, he had taken his job for granted and despite frequently being drunk whilst teaching pupils, he never expected to lose his position. Therefore, he is sent on a long tem break from his job and takes a two year vacation to Australia. This role reversal shows that members of the working class are capable of breaking the cycle and achieving their goals, but also shows that members of the middle class can just as easily fail at doing this. Russell wrote Educating Rita to appeal to people from a wide range of backgrounds. It is intended to be an inspirational piece of work. When writing the play, he aimed to make it relevant to those who considered themselves uneducated and who didn't speak the language of the University or the theatre. His intention was to write a play which would appeal to both the working and middle classes. The message of the play is that anyone is capable of achieving their ambitions regardless of where they come from or how wealthy they are. At the end of the play, Russell wants the less fortunate members of the audience, in particular, to believe in themselves and be encouraged to change their lives for the better. He also tells the audience that even the richest members in society can fall off their high horse if they don't put in the effort. The most powerful message is that everyone is equal and that people should not be categorised due to their level of wealth and education, but by their personality. Overall Educating Rita puts forward a philosophy that anyone is capable of change in spite of the obstacles which may be in their way. ...read more.

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