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The Themes In The Play Educating Rita English Literature Essay

‘Educating Rita’ is a comedy written by the playwright Willy Russell in 1980. Educating Rita only focuses on two main characters. This is not normally used because a really good plot would be needed to keep the audience interested. The advantage of this is the audience can easily see and understand the relationship between the main characters. The two characters Rita and Frank contrast in class and education. Rita is a young woman who had a poor education but now wants to learn literature, so she goes to the Open University. Frank is the Literature teacher that is assigned to Rita. This story is based on a unique circumstance because their lives and opinions are opposites who would never normally meet.

Frank the other main character is the opposite to Rita. He is a middle–aged man, who has a clear drinking problem and only does his job to fuel his addiction. He seems to be trapped and is reluctant to change. He is negative about life, but when he meets Rita she provides a ‘breathe of fresh air’. He is similar to Rita in the fact that they both suffer from hard relationships. His wife left him ‘for the good of literature’ and he lives with his new girlfriend Julia, but the relationship isn’t perfect. Rita’s marriage is nearly hitting rock bottom with her desire for changing is completely going against her husband’s ideas. Denny wants to start a family, but Rita puts life on hold so she can learn literature.

We see a difference in cultures from the start as when they first meet you see the different style of speech used. Frank uses clever vocabulary and proper English ‘There, you see, an example of assonance’, while Rita uses everyday language ‘Ta. I’ll look after it. If I pack the course in I’ll post it to y’. I think the big differences in culture and speech between the characters is easily seen and understood by the audience and it is the differences that make Rita and Frank’s relationship very unique. Rita is obviously a working class person, in a society that isn’t really interested in literature and doesn’t like it while Frank is a middle-class person, a society where literature is important but Frank is getting bored of it. Rita is trying to move up a class through doing this course.

Frank does not change much but Rita provides a breath of fresh air. He stops drinking whisky and becomes more attentive. His attitude changes because of Rita. He becomes more light hearted and learns some of Rita’s phrases ‘Assonance, its just getting the rhyme wrong’’. Even with the fresh air that Rita provides she does not completely change Frank.

Throughout the play there are different examples of barricades. The play is mainly set in Frank’s office and the first barricade is right at the start of the play when Rita has trouble opening the door. This could be seen as she wants an education but education doesn’t want her. When Rita first attempts to change her life and enter the room she has to struggle. Like education doesn’t want her. Another example is when Frank’s windows would not open. They have been shut for so long they want didn’t change. This shows Frank has an opposite opinion of life to Rita. He does not want to change only be the same for the rest of his life.

During Act Two the audience can see changes occurring. At the start of Act 2, Frank begins to write poetry again, and Rita is dressed in new clothes. This is a visual change and the audience very quickly notices this. It shows that Rita may have improved financially or is dressing differently because of her change in class. Frank may also of changed because he is regaining his love for literature.

In scene two she attempts to speak in a ‘posh’ accent which is an example of external change by changing the way she is speaking. She is also now talking to students and becoming friends with them, she is even planning to go on holiday with them. This seems to make Frank jealous and left out.

By scene three we see, that Frank is going down his drunken road again and the new Rita seems to clash. ‘‘I don’t need you to hold me hand as much’ Frank still wants things to be like when he was the teacher and she the eager student, but Rita now wants independence and for Frank to treat her as an equal. Rita now wants some independent, alone time. It seems due to Frank’s jealous reaction ‘It struck me that there was a time when you told me everything’ and a developing likeness for Rita he wanted more out of their relationship.

In scene 4 we see another change. Rita has now changed to working in a cafe. This may explain why she was able to buy new clothes and a pen for Frank. Frank doesn’t like the fact that he doesn’t know as many things about Rita anymore. ‘It struck me that there was a time when you told me everything.

In comparison Act one showed there was a chance that things could end in a happy way and that Rita may just bring Frank back to the world outside literature. However by Act two it seems even Rita can’t stop Frank going down hill. He starts drinking heavily which highlights his alcohol problems. Things were so bad he made a comparison of himself to Frankenstein.

In conclusion I feel the plays ends with the fact that education doesn’t completely change Rita, but it has given her the ability to have more choices and make independent decisions.

By Mike Burton 11L

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