What has Rita learned by the end of the play? Explain how Willy Russell presents her development into the woman who 'had a choice' and 'did the exam'
Educating Rita a modern issue about a woman who is on a quest for a more fulfilling life. She strives for an education and has a thirst for learning. She joins the Open University and is accompanied through her education by her tutor named Frank.
At the beginning of the play Rita was a loudmouthed hairdresser who wasn’t afraid to say what she thought. Rita seems to be a very direct person; this is shown when she goes to her first meeting with Frank. Rita forces the jammed door open and hangs up her coat before introducing herself. 'Stupid bleedin' handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!' This shows Rita is quite outspoken. The stubborn door represents the struggle she is going through to gain knowledge and be fulfilled with her life as she thinks all educated people lead better ones than her.
By the end of the play Rita has gained a lot of knowledge, she hasn't just met her educational needs but has learnt that personal fulfilment cannot be solely met by education. Once Rita ha acquired an education she dropped the pretentious world that she lived in, realizing that Frank, to whom she previously looked up to was an insatiable alcoholic. Rita realized that Frank and Trish's world wasn’t anything like she imagined. 'It's like Trish, I thought she was so cool an' together', ' she'd tried to top herself'. Willy Russell has shown her development by Rita changing her preconceived ideas about the educated.
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In Rita's past she talked of how peer pressure forced her to be like everyone else and although she had the choice of fulfilling her education, she chose not to in case of not fitting in with the group. Rita confessed this to frank ' I would have had to become different from me mates, an' that's not allowed.' although Rita thought to herself that she was standing up and being different to the other women on her estate we see her conform unquestioningly to the behaviour of her chosen group. This is one way in which Willy Russell presents her development. She is once again going along with the student crowd as she did in school. The change that she has made is more constructive than the one in previous years as she's had a taste of the life she wants and tries to imitate it. For example her flatmate Trish. Rita idolised her for her class and intellect, this is shown in Act 2 Scene 2 when Rita changes her voice 'Trish says there is not a lot of point in discussing beautiful literature in an ugly voice' this demonstrates Rita's struggle to fit in by acting like someone she isn’t. Although she becomes more independent as her intellect increases, she starts to loose her individuality and is being more like her new group. 'I was so hungry.' 'I wanted it all so much' Willy Russell presented her development by the fact that he now had a choice, now that she was educated she could go abroad or have a baby 'I'll make a decision. I'll choose.'
The language and culture in Willy Russell's 'Educating Rita' is very diverse and shows the comparisons between Frank's cultural background and Rita's working class background. The differences between the two cultures are picked up in Act 1 Scene 1, little factors such as Frank watches BBC television and Rita watches ITV. Another comparison is when Rita asked Frank about a painting on the wall of his room which he has never noticed that much. Rita classed the picture as 'pornography', 'men only'. Whereas Frank would see it as 'very beautiful'. Not only does this show the cultural differences between the two but also the intellectual gap. I think Act 1 Scene 1 focused on their differences to establish the total diversity of the two characters, this progresses to the gap gradually closing as Rita's development continues. As Rita gains more knowledge and intelligence the vocabulary changes, her use of slang and non-standard English has decreased significantly when talking about books.
The structure of the play is set out in a very basic way but with strong effect. The play has two acts and separated scenes to show how the acts are developed. Act 1 and Act 2 show us different "Rita's". In Act 1 Rita is totally dependant on Frank; she is desperate to 'know everything'. She is enthusiastic, humorous and quite naïve. Rita struggles with all the battles she has to face in her working class life, putting up with her husband, Denny, who is quite narrow minded and his choices, as Rita observes, is limited to picking one of eight kinds of lager, or deciding between Everton and Liverpool. This contrasts with the vast choices that Rita has by the end of the play. Rita's mother who got upset about petty things 'better songs to sing' influenced Rita and gave a drive to her ambition to learn, this appears later when frank throws the words back at her, modified, to include criticism of what she has achieved. This has metaphorical significance both when her mum always thought, "the grass was greener" and Rita's attitude to her education, thinking that her life would improve considerably.
At the end of Act 1 Rita goes to summer school, the interval placed between Acts 1 and 2 gives a physical break for the time passing to make the new Rita seem more real to the audience. Coming back from summer school Rita had changed her image, clothes and attitude. She wasn’t dependant on Frank as much as she was before; the new friends she had made at the camp influenced most of this. Act 1 is more humorous than Act 2 as the latter showed her greater intellectual ability.
The setting that 'Educating Rita' is located in is very symbolic to the play and the relationship between Frank and Rita. Frank's study is in a Victorian University building, the significance of this is that it seems very imposing as old historical buildings are related with the higher classes who have status 'It looks the way I always imagined a public school to look' this brings a distinction with the background Rita is from. The whole play is set in Frank's study, this is a very intimate setting; it separates the two from the rest of the university. This allows the audience to concentrate more on Rita's development and the relationship between her and Frank. At first the study was a safe haven but later it became a place where she wanted to move away from. This was a sign of her increasing independence. The window that she looked out of had a symbolic meaning; she used to look through it at the 'proper students' but then moves out into their world, the world that she wanted to be a part of.
The stage directions in 'Educating Rita' are very detailed and provide information, which the dialogue cannot. Some of the stage directions help to show Rita's feelings during her tutoring with Frank. One example of this is in Act 1 Scene 7, once Rita has sat down she starts fussing over her stationary and sharpening pencils, this not only shows her anxiety but also her nervousness because she backed out of having dinner with Frank and his more "cultural" friends as she felt inferior to them. These instructions gradually decrease showing Rita's development as she gets less anxious and fits more comfortably in Franks world. In the beginning of the play Rita was full of enthusiasm and a thirst for learning but at the end learnt that having an education didn’t solve all of her problems.