This essay “ Educating Rita”, gives us, the audience an insight into the steps Rita takes to make significant life changes. Great english essay, perfect for coursework.
Educating Rita Essay
The play “ Educating Rita”, gives us, the audience an insight into the steps Rita takes to make significant life changes. Rita, a married, childless young woman, was very anxious and cocky at the beginning. The play portrays her life-changing journey, which was emotional and at times complex. It is about Rita’s step into the academic world to overcome her self-doubt. It shows her transformation into a confident woman with immense inner strength and potential.
The use of education is one of the many ways we see Rita change throughout the play. Willy Russell, author of “Educating Rita”, has used education as one of the most important themes. He appears to believe that everyone has the right to an education and should make the most of it to improve their chances in life. Russell’s early life was very similar to Rita’s. They both started out with similar circumstances, e.g. struggling financially, very poorly educated and lacking in motivation. However they are both very intelligent and manage to progress in life with hard work and determination to became happy and achieve their goals.
At the beginning of the play Rita decides to enrol in an Open University course. She is fed up of her job as a hairdresser, unhappy in her marriage, feels constrained by her local community and believes that the only way to improve her life is through education.
Initially Rita believes that she needs to know “everything”. She tells Frank, her tutor, that she does not watch “the ballet or the opera” because she does not understand it. She believes that by increasing her knowledge she will be “finding” herself. She is at a stage in her life when she feels that she needs something else for herself, which does not include the wishes of others such as her husband and family. Rita needs to believe in her capabilities. However it is important to note that Rita is very smart; she reads novels, some poetry, and daily newspapers and watches the TV. She has strong opinions and can hold her own in a discussion, and on one occasion Frank suggested that she should have taken up a course in Politics.
However Rita does not understand different types of literature. She thinks that E. M. Forster’s novel, ‘Howard’s End’ is ‘crap’ and enjoys Rita Mae Brown’s sexually explicit book, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’. Rita also writes an essay about Howard’s End and makes reference to Harold Robbins’ novels, which are not considered ‘traditional’ literature. After reading three novels in one week Frank asks Rita to compare the books. She responds that an American wrote one and the other two are posh books but feels that they are ‘all books’. In discussion with Frank, Rita acknowledges that she needs to know more about books because she is ‘ignorant’.
Rita’s understanding of literature grew immensely. She was more widely read, was able to have confident and challenging discussions with the other students and Frank. She also passed her exam, which shows she had a clear understanding about literature.
By the end Rita’s education had given her confidence and Frank acknowledged her academic progress by calling her ‘an educated women’. Rita now knew that she had options and could make her own decisions. She was a new woman, having new experiences and ready to discover the world. She was actually considering going abroad for the first time.
One of the ways we, the audience, see Rita change is through her accent, temporarily, and through her language. Throughout the play Rita’s language becomes more defined and she now understands ‘big’ words. At the beginning she did not always understand words Frank used and had to ask for clarification. She later conversed with Frank and the other students and had no difficulty expressing herself and understanding others. Rita mentioned having an in-depth conversation with a tutor when she was away at summer school and was proud that she held her own in debating a specialist topic.
She decides to talk in an educated voice because Trish had suggested that she couldn’t discuss ‘beautiful literature in an ugly voice’. However Frank thought she was not being herself and was speaking like a robot. Russell suggests educated people can easily influence Rita. She strives to be like Trish who is well spoken and educated. However she comes to realize that that does not necessarily make you a contented person. Trish tried to commit suicide and that made Rita realize that although Trish was educated, ‘posh’ and appeared successful she was unhappy. Trish’s exterior appearance did not reflect her emotions.
During this play the changing relationship between Frank and Rita is dynamic to observe. We also hear how their relationships with their partners change due to how they begin to view their lives and the future. Rita’s relationship with Frank changes in many ways. At the beginning of the play Frank is in a teacher’s role; he knows he is her tutor and feels he needs to teach although he is not a very good teacher. Rita embraces a student role; she realises she needs new knowledge and relies on Frank for information. However as the play progresses Rita gains new knowledge and confidence; enough to make changes in her life while Frank continues to be selfish in his relationship with Julia, his partner. While Rita learns a great deal about herself and life, changes her physical appearance, talks confidently and begins to meet new people, Frank seem to have worsened and cannot maintain good relationships. Frank continues to misuse alcohol and although he knows that it affects his relationship with Julia he does nothing about it. Also of interest, Frank is attracted to Rita, which is inappropriate for their tutor/student role. Rita realises this but only likes him in a platonic way. She tries to be jovial and not get drawn into this change of role. Frank had asked her to go to Australia with him and although she might have been tempted to have new experiences she did not want their relationship to change.
Rita’s relationship with Denny, her partner, worsens when she begins to further her education. Denny does not like the fact that Rita wants to learn and discover herself. Denny shows jealousy and childishness by burning her essay and books. He tries to make her feel incapable of bettering herself. Denny does not want her to attend her classes because he does not like Frank and because he wants her to have a baby. Rita explained to Frank that Denny told her to stop taking the contraceptive pill but she continues to take it without his knowledge and he thinks she must be ‘sterile’. She said Denny sees the change in her and buys her presents, hoping to have her back, wondering ‘where the girl he married has gone to’. Rita sees Denny as an obstacle in her life and she is uncertain of their future. When Denny realises that Rita is changing he, in anger, packs her bags and tells her to leave unless she does what he wants. She leaves.
Rita and Denny come from a community, which views a woman’s role in the negative. They believe that a woman’s role is to be content being poorly educated, in low paid jobs, married with children, the husband is the decision maker and their type of entertainment is singing in the pub. She finds it really hard to move away from this mind-set because her family and friends are all like this. Russell came from a working class life community and he wanted to tell the audience that they could be small-minded and not realise that there is a big world out there to explore and have new experiences. However sometimes individuals break away from this way of life and move on to bigger and better things but it takes real focus, determination and hard work.
Rita is tired of being held back. She wants to go to places in life. She wants to better herself. She is fed up and wants her life to change. She is unhappy, impatient and frustrated with her job, relationship and life.
As the play progresses, Rita gradually becomes wiser. She starts to depend on Frank less and does not communicate as much about her private life. For example, when she had a flat mate named Trish, changed her job and when she started calling herself by her given name, Susan, she does not inform Frank until later on. Also in Act 2, Scene 5 when Rita argued with Frank she told him she was now grown up, had a room full of books, knew what clothes to wear, what wine to buy and also what plays to see. She told him that she could do without him now.
Rita’s confidence grows with during the play; she is determined to improve her life even if it means the end of her marriage. She leaves Denny and starts a new life and begins to develop relationships with others. At the beginning Rita did not interact with fellow students. As Rita’s confidence grew she starts to interact with them. Eventually she even goes on a trip with other students. The fact that Rita is now bonding with the other student shows she doesn’t feel left out anymore. She feels she is good as them. She also sees a Shakespeare play for the first time and talks about visiting an art gallery to become more culturally aware.
During the course of the play Rita and Frank had a mutual respect and likeness for each other, however the relationship was at times complex. At the end, a happier, more confident and ‘knowledgeable’ Rita told Frank how much she appreciated learning from him. She did not like his life choices but felt he was a good teacher. She also showed her appreciation by earlier giving him an engraved pen and at the end a well needed haircut. Rita wanted to give back something to Frank. She thought he knew enough academically but felt she was the expert in the hairdressing field and wanted to show her appreciation hence giving him a haircut.
Rita’s external changes are also mirrored by the way her personally changes. By the end of the play Rita had transformed. She is a new woman; very different from how she was at the beginning. Rita was poorly educated and some might assume that she was stupid, financially poor, badly dressed, had no ambition, wouldn’t know what books to read and her weekly entertainment would be to go to the pub or bingo. At the end of the play Rita’s character had changed significantly and she could no longer be stereotyped. She was smart, funny, had dress sense, was ambitious, well read and enjoyed the theatre.
Russell shows Rita’s more stylish transformation by how she enters and exits Frank’s study. At the beginning she bursts through his door unannounced and out of breath, unpacks her notepad and pencil case and gets into a student mode. By the end she knocks on his door, walks in calmly and does not unpack her bag. The door was also very difficult to open at the beginning but Rita oiled the lock. This might symbolise Rita’s journey. Initially she struggled to adjust to her role as a student and the difficulties that came with it e.g. her marital problems but at the end she entered without difficulty symbolising a positive change in her life.
Throughout the duration of the play the audience see Rita’s character develop in many ways. At the beginning Rita was a discontented, stressed and uneducated woman. Throughout the play she makes a huge transformation into a blissful, stress-free and mature, educated women. By the end of the play Rita is now a ‘free’ women with her whole life ahead of her. She still has many decisions but now feels able to make choices.
I think Russell is trying to explain by the play “Educating Rita” that if you start life not so well there will always be a second chance to rectify your mistakes and do something with your life. The audience can see a very big resemblance between Rita and Russell’s lives. Both of them started life with few opportunities, and then through hard work and determination they manage to re-establish their lives.
By the end of the play the audience discovers that Rita is now an educated women and can fulfil her dreams whatever they might be. We do not know whether both her and Frank stay friends or even become a couple. It is probably unlikely because Frank was leaving the country and Rita was not going with him. We do not know what Rita does with the rest of her life. Does she further her education? Does she get a job she is really happy doing? Does she go to France with Tiger or even, does she go back to Denny and have a baby? Who knows? Russell leaves the audience with these questions to create an atmosphere of suspense; he wants the audience to keep guessing and wondering about his delightful characters.
In the play “Educating Rita”, Rita changes in numerous ways. In my opinion, she has changed the most by her forming great relationships with other people. As long as Rita keeps the good friends she has made, continues to extend her knowledge and meet more interesting people she will continue to progress in her life and learn to accept herself. I think Rita now knows who she is and likes and accepts herself. She is likely to continue to further her education to give herself more life choices. She is happier and more confident and that is a very good start for her to progress further in life.