Educating Rita presents the desire for
Personal development as a Social, Emotional and
Educating Rita is a play based on one working class, hairdressing woman - Rita - and her journey towards becoming educated with the Open University. Frank, her tutor, plays a big role in providing her with the knowledge she craves. The main theme of Educating Rita is personal relationships and the play focuses on the way that Frank and Rita influence each other.
Throughout the play we see clearly the contrast between Frank and Rita and their way of life. Rita gradually reveals more and more details to Frank about her home life and we begin to understand her motives for coming to Frank. She is married to Denny, also of working class background and although we learn more of him in the film, Rita paints a clear picture of his attitudes and opinions during her discussions with Frank.
From the play we can learn of many reasons why Rita desires this education so much. Firstly, she doesn't want to fit into the normal 'category' for a woman of twenty-six and she doesn't want to have a baby or at least not until she has discovered herself. The issue of having a baby appears frequently throughout the book, like in the very first scene where Rita says, "I'm sure me husband thinks I'm sterile. See, I don't want a baby yet. I wanna discover myself first." Socially, there is an awful lot of contrast between Frank and Rita, from the authors they like to their evening pastimes. There is a scene in the film, which is talked about in the play, where Frank invites Rita (and Denny) to a dinner party hosted by his partner - Julia. Denny refuses to go; however Rita is keen to attend. We see her in the film trying on different outfits and dresses and trying to talk about politics and current affairs (of which she knows little about but feels she will be expected to talk about) to the mirror. Then, she arrives at the house and looks inside through the window, and has a phase where she realises that she is 'kidding herself' and cannot face going in. Frank, is highly offended that Rita did not come, and that all she left was a piece of paper saying 'Sorry couldn't come'. One of my favourite parts of the play, which shows a definite social clash is where Rita makes excuses for not coming and they begin to talk about wines. Rita knows Frank would have taken wine to dinner and he says, "Does it matter what I take to dinner parties? It wouldn't have mattered if you'd walked in with a bottle of Spanish plonk!" Then Rita replies, "It was Spanish."
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Although humorous for the reader, there is a lot of embarrassment on both sides. In the end, Rita goes to the pub and meets with Denny and her circle of friends feeling miserable, but nevertheless, joins in with the singing. The thing that makes her come back to Frank is her drunken mother saying, "There are better songs to sing than these." This makes Rita realise that if she isn't happy with the way life is for her at the moment, just because no one else is willing to change, there's no reason why she can't. Rita gradually becomes absorbed and even obsessed with literature and this culture in general. We can tell that right from the start she was incredibly keen to learn hence her line when asked what she wanted to know - "Everything."
Emotionally, Rita comes across as a very passionate and vibrant person. We know Frank feels this way too as, in scene 8, he is trying to hold back from teaching as much because she is so individual, he doesn't want her to turn into just another student. Right in the beginning, when Denny discovers she is on the pill, he burns all her books. We see clearly her devastation in the film, and we can also catch hints of it when she speaks to Frank. I think her desire to be educated is a definite emotional issue, as it takes a lot of guts and courage to break through the 'boundaries' of her class. It was a very independent decision, as she seems to have ignored advice from anyone else. From Denny's point of view, It was a selfish and inconsiderate idea but personally, I think it is Rita's life and purely her choice. She gets very emotional towards the end of the play, when she has returned from summer school, and suddenly reveals attitudes to Frank we never knew she had, such as; I'll tell you what you can't bear, Mr Self-Pitying Piss Artist; what you can't bear is that I am educated now." Which in a way is true, Frank is hurt that Rita is getting her knowledge from other sources whereas before her world revolved around him.
Intellectually, I personally don't think Rita is that much behind Frank. It would be unfair to say that she wasn't given the chance to learn, as everyone is, but due to her class and perhaps pier pressure, school was never considered and important opportunity. Educating Rita shows a definite desire for education regardless of intellect or ability and I don't believe that her decision to become educated was to increase her intellectual ability as such, but more to discover herself and therefore it wasn't really an issue until she started studying. She is obviously full of ideas, but unable at first to find an interest in literature such as the book 'Howard's end'. Our first impression of Rita as she 'flounces' in Franks room for the first time is that she is incredibly confident, but gradually we see in inner side of Rita, the real Rita hidden underneath this 'shield' of hers. Naturally, she had doubts about her own ability or even the fact that the Open University had accepted her in the first place. This explains her lines, "If I pack the course in, I'll send it to y'" (the books Frank has given her) and when asked why she would do that, she replies "I just might. I might decide it was a soft idea." The words of some of her piers seem to have sunk in and are playing in the back of her mind even thought she has made her choice to become educated. Denny, who is perhaps her social equal - but not intellectual, wants her to have a baby and settle down and doesn't see a need for her to move on. He tells Rita she'd betrayed him and he tries to drag her down and prevent her from moving on. Finally, He gives Rita an almost ultimatum saying wither she packs in the course or gets out - she leaves him.
When Rita started out on the course, her and Frank were on completely different intellectual levels and understanding but in the final scene we can see how they have both changed, emotionally, intellectually and socially. I am indecisive whether this is a change for the better or the worse but it is clear to see how a bit of the other has rubbed of on each of them.