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How does Rita's character change and her relationship with Frank alter during the course of the play? Willy Russell's 'Educating Rita'.

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Introduction

How does Rita's character change and her relationship with Frank alter during the course of the play? Willy Russell's 'Educating Rita' is set in 1985 and tells the story of Rita; a young hairdresser who feels that life is passing her by and offering her no choices. She decides to enrol in an Open University literature course and with the help of her tutor Frank, we see her successes and failures as she tries to give herself that "choice" that she wants so much. Rita and Frank are the only two characters we meet in the play, although other are mentioned such as Rita's husband Denny, Julia, Frank's partner and Rita's flatmate Trish. The only setting for the play is Frank's book-lined study in a Northern University. It is here that all the action takes place, although other important events occur offstage such as Rita's trip to summer school. Rita is a working class, 26-year-old hairdresser. The decision to enrol in the Open University course was a difficult decision for her to make as it meant breaking away from the social restrictions placed on her by her husband Denny and the community in which she lived and worked. This decision was made harder because life could never be the same from then on. "Its not sudden", the change that made her join the course and she had been "realizin' for ages" that she wasn't happy with her life. Denny wanted to start a family and it was between this and an education that Rita must choose. Rita chooses to study and this completely changes her life. She becomes more culturally aware and less ignorant. Gradually, she becomes absorbed by the literature she is studying and it is only from her experiences with her flatmate Trish that she begins to realise that there is more to life than literature and culture. As we only see her at her weekly meetings with Frank, it is here that we notice the gradual change in her character. ...read more.

Middle

She cannot recognise the merit or errors in her own work and therefore needs Frank to identify them. He is never dismissive of her work, in fact, it is Rita that says "here, it's crap. Right. So we dump that in the bin, an' we start again". He is always positive, encourages her and appreciates the value of her work, even if, in exam terms it is "worthless". Rita's writing shows us a great deal about her character. Her Macbeth essay conveys a passion for the play that is rare. It is an "unashamedly emotional statement", demonstrating her openness and unspoilt character. Having just split up with Denny, Rita still attends her lesson that day and even though Frank tells her to "sod Macbeth" because of the "circumstances", Rita knows that "in the circumstances I need to go on". This plainly shows her determination to succeed. Especially now she no longer has Denny, "the only thing [she] value[s] is here, comin' here once a week". The first major change that we see in Rita is on her return from summer camp. The fact that she even went shows us how much more confidence she has in herself and her knowledge. This is the first scene in Act two, so now not only have the audience had a short break from watching the show, Rita has had a short break from coming to her lessons with Frank. She has much to acquaint him with and is honest and communicative in her reply. Everything she says about her trip emphasises how much she has grown in confidence. Rita still has her determination to succeed but her new-found confidence in herself means that even though they were "lashin'" them with work, "it was dead good though". She admits to Frank that at first she was "dead scared. I didn't know anyone. I was gonna come home". This shows that much of her new self-assurance has stemmed from her time at summer school. ...read more.

Conclusion

Rita has several options of things to do now, one of them is to have a baby, but "I'll make a decision, I'll choose. I dunno". This is what she wanted. She wasn't against having a baby at the start of the play, but what she wanted was the choice to have the baby, rather than just getting pregnant because it was what was expected for someone her age. Frank gives Rita a dress for an "educated women" and Rita feels really grateful. She feels that "all I've ever done is take from you I've never given anything". Because of this, she gives him the only thing she knows how to, and as she promised at the start of the course, she cuts his hair. This marks the start of an improvement in their relationship, but this happens just as Frank is packing to leave for Australia. Rita finally makes the decision to study and doing so changes her life completely. Culture and literature, as her knowledge and understanding increases gradually absorb her. It is only her flatmate's attempted suicide that makes her realise that literature alone cannot fulfil your life and provide all the answers. Despite this, she continues studying and finally passes her examination. Throughout this time, her character undergoes several major changes, from having a clever mind but no education, to acquiring a little superficial knowledge of literature, to the end of the play when she has become a fully educated and capable woman, able to make her own choices. Her relationship with Frank also goes through several different stages. At the start, she hangs off his every word and needs him to explain everything. After her return from summer camp, Rita has become more independent and self-confident. As this confidence increases, Frank is disappointed because he has created a woman who no longer needs him, and he had enjoyed being relied upon so much. By the end of the play, their relationship improves again now Rita has succeeded in her aim to have a "choice" and Frank appreciates what she was trying to accomplish. 1 ...read more.

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