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What does Rita gain from her education and what does she lose?

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Introduction

Jack Warder Educating Rita by Willy Russell What does Rita gain from her education and what does she lose? When the heroine of 'Educating Rita' begins her personal crusade to gain an education by pursuing an open university course in English Literature, although she realises it will be hard work, she does not have any idea what she will lose as well as gain when she achieves her goal. There are only two characters in the play, Rita, the student and Frank, her tutor although many other people are important to the play and are referred to frequently. All the action takes place in Frank's study, on the first floor of a typical university building in the north of England. Frank is a lecturer in English Literature, and needs the occasional bottle of whisky to help him cope with his students. He has never taken an Open University student before, and has taken Rita on, against his better judgement, to help pay for his drink. Rita is a totally, uneducated, working class hairdresser, with a Liverpool accent, who is both forthright and funny, although she has a great capacity for self-criticism, and a strong desire to acquire knowledge. She simply wants to know 'everything.' Although Frank has become quite smitten by Rita's fresh approach and original views, his reluctance to teach Rita is made worse by his cynicism and the fact he considers he is "actually an appalling tutor." ...read more.

Middle

She would have been seen as "someone who's funny, delightful, charming....." to which she objects. She would have wanted to talk seriously and with confidence to the others. Rita is now at the half way stage in her transformation, and now she is also unable to fit in with her own friends anymore. Rita has written an essay on Macbeth, and although Frank thinks it's worthless from an examiner's point of view, he thinks it's a "totally honest passionate account." That is not good enough for Rita who immediately rips it up. She wants to be on the same level as all the other 'proper' students. Rita wants to discard completely her true identity, and the only thing remaining is her insatiable desire to learn, and she is now getting down to it. Rita's character is changing: she is losing a lot of her individuality and uniqueness, but gaining much in education. After returning from summer school Rita has gained in confidence in her own opinions and abilities. This is the biggest change in her so far. She has experienced life as a student, able to stand up in a lecture and ask questions, able to socialise with like-minded people. Rita is still trying to change Frank. She has bought him a pen as a gift, only to be used for writing poetry. ...read more.

Conclusion

She has no need for Frank anymore, she says, only to take the exam. Perhaps he needs her more than she needs him? Rita passes her English Literature exam with a good grade. She now realises the education she had gained at school had been learned parrot fashion without any thought of questioning. Now simply because she was so eager to learn, she could absorb by undrstanding. What Frank had taught her about Literature gave her choice, the only thing she had not before. Frank asks her to go to Australia with him, but she has not yet made up her mind now she has a real choice. Ultimately Rita has gained what she set out to achieve: An education in much more than how to write about and appreciate English Literature, and is, as she had hoped, the ability to make choices for the future. She is changed in many other ways from the young woman who found her literacy thrills in a Harold Robbins soft-porn novel. She can converse with real students, has in fact gained culture and poise and is well-read. However, as he feared, she has lost some of that initial freshness and originality which so attracted her tutor. Yet the old Rita is still capable of surprising us (and him!) at the end of the play by using former skills in transform his appearance i.e. give him a haircut! ...read more.

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