Critical Essay: Educating Rita.
The play “Education Rita” by Willy Russell has a character that undergoes a dramatic change during the course of the play. Rita is a character who changes during the play. It is set in a “Victorian-built university in the North of England, in a book-lined tutorial room.” The play is based around Rita White, a hairdresser who is dissatisfied with her work and wants to transform herself. To do so, she goes to an Open University course. The themes surrounding this play are the transformative nature of education, self-discovery and class. In this essay I will show how the writer uses setting and key scenes to show Rita undergoing dramatic changes.
This is a preview of the whole essay
One technique the writer uses in the play is the setting. The play is set in a “book-lined tutorial room in a Victorian-built university in the North of England.” Rita first arrives like an alien coming from one world to another. We see that she has to overcome obstacles straight away when she struggles to open Frank’s tutorial door. “I am comin’ in… It’s this stupid bleedin’ handle on the door.” This is symbolic as it means the academic world is not easy to get into. A painting in the room catches Rita’s attention. We learn from stage directions that ‘Rita is looking at a nude-painting. She becomes aware that Frank is watching her.” Rita is not as educated as Frank and describes the painting as ‘erotic’ and Frank is shocked at this as he refers to it as ‘beautiful.’
We see that Willy Russell makes effective use of a key scene to show Rita undergoing a dramatic change in the action of the play. We see this when Frank and Rita have an argument when Rita compliments Frank’s poetry. “This is brilliant. They’re witty. They’re profound. Full of style.” Here we see Rita can understand poetry now which Frank sees as Rita is becoming a monster. “I think that like you I shall change my name: From now on I shall insist upon being known as Mary, Mary Shelley… She wrote a little Gothic number called Frankenstein.” It is clear evidence here that Frank believes he has recreated Rita, but not for the better. Rita now has the confidence to tell Frank that she doesn’t need him anymore because she is “educated.” Frank retaliates and says “found a culture have you? Found a better song to sing? No – you’ve found a different song.” This refers back to Rita’s working class history. This is a powerful scene as it shows Frank and Rita are drifting apart. Frank feared Rita would lose her authentic voice and now she has, he describes her as “shrill and hollow.”
“Educating Rita” by Willy Russell is an example of a play where the author makes effective use of setting and key scene to show a character that undergoes a dramatic change in the action of the play. The themes surrounding this play are class, the transformative nature of education and self-discovery. This essay clearly shows how Willy Russell uses different techniques to show Rita White undergoing dramatic changes.
Here's what a star student thought of this essay
Quality of writing
The Quality of Written Communication is fairly good throughout, aside from the glaring error in the first line - where the title is mistakenly referred to as "Education Rita". This strikes me as a minor errors and not one that shows a flawed knowledge of the play, as elsewhere it is referred to with it's proper name. It is therefore hugely important candidates re-read and spell-check their work for even simple errors like this one, as this kind of error so early on in the essay may give the impression to the examiner that the candidate was not paying full attention to what it is they have written.
Level of analysis
The Level of Analysis here is good. Though not exhaustive, the candidate has shown a clear understanding of the character of Rita, her interactions with Frank, and the ways in which Russell uses motifs, themes and stage directions to develop Rita's characters. However, as with all essays, there can be improvements made. These vary from larger things such as neglecting to comment at length on the use of language - how does the dialectal and accentual differences between Rita and Frank show their differences in character, class/social background and education level? How does this change throughout the play? Other, small things are just minor irks that need correcting, such as remembering to refer to Russell as a playwright, and not a write or author (as would be the case with a novel), or perhaps remembering to be very precise in their comments, e.g. "This is symbolic as it means the academic world is not easy to get into" does not actually ring true completely, and should be finished with "for the lower classes", as the academic world was very easy to access for those with the money to pay for it. The candidate is unlikely to lose huge amounts of points on these two discrepancies, but it does prevent them (were they aiming to) from reaching the A/A* grade boundaries. As this stands, because not a great deal of the analysis is directed at the question, at a low/middle C grade for GCSE. To improve, I would recommend the candidate make sure they do not spend too long on aspects of their essay that are unlikely to earn marks, e.g. the symbolism, unless it is directly linked with change in the character of Rita; or perhaps the description of stage directions, again, unless it is explicitly focused on exploring Rita's development throughout the play.
Response to question
This is a sound essay with a confident analysis of how the character changes. However, the concentration on what the actual question asks is limited to the last few paragraphs, so the candidate does not always provide answers that are directly answering the question. There is a fine understanding of character and the candidate does well to include this, as it will aid them in establishing the differences in Rita's character as she progresses through the play. I would recommend though, that at the end of every point and commentary made, the candidate link back to the question by briefly describing how the point they just analysed shows a difference in Rita's character; just so that the points are nicely rounded off and the examiners are made aware the candidate is explicitly linking their analysis back to the question.