Analysis of the Stage Comedy Educating Rita by British Playwright Willy Russell

Rita’s experience at summer school challenges her views of the world. Before hand, Rita believes that summer school is for educated students. This idealistic view is quickly changed when she begins Open University. Willy Russell uses literary devices and cultural references to make the changes in Rita apparent. Rita feels out of place in the University environment and craves to be able to sit on the grass with the other students.

“I love that lawn down there, when its summer do the students sit on it?…who?… The proper students…reading and studying.

Rita is intelligent but uneducated, and she has idealistic views of the way she should act and what students are like. She has stereotypical views in her mind.

“Then I’ll get a proper dress, the sort of dress you’d only see on an educated woman”

At the end of act1 there is a crucial turning point in the play. In act 1 scene 7 Rita starts to buckle down with her school work.

Before she first entered Franks office she wanted to talk, now she was ready and willing to read and write about literature.

“Straight to the desk, she sits in the chair and unpacks the note pad and pencil case.”

She also, now begins to ask questions,

“What does the word ‘sorry’ mean if its not an apology?”

When Rita returns from summer school she has a complete image and attitude change.

“Rita bursts through the door. She is dressed in new, second-hand clothes”

Before summer school starts Rita’s search for and education had been a solitary one.

“I tried to explain, but he didn’t understand”

Denny wanted Rita to have children and get married. He tries to control her.

“He was moanin’ all the time, y’know ‘come of the pill, lets have a baby’.”

Now she has met other people with the same goal as her, Denny’s thoughts become blind to her.

“He says theres a time for education. An’ its not when y’ twenty six and married”

This shows that her husband is clearly trying to prevent Rita from gaining the knowledge she desires.

Rita lacks confidence in her own ability and therefore does not invest the time or energy into her education that she needs to. This is shown when she submits a one word essay or when she has to run back to the salon because she has a customer under the dryer.

“Well I better get back, I’ve left a customer with a perm lotion. If I dont get a move on there’ll be another tragedy.”

In the literary world, Frank had been Rita’s sole influence and mentor, this means that she has been more than willing to accept all of Franks views and tastes in literature without ever questioning him.

“You mean that over the years its aquired a certain patina”

“Do I?”

When Rita returns from summer school, she no longer relies on Franks and challenges views. When he mentions Blake, Rita sharply answers with,

“Blake? William Blake?” 

When she mentions that she had studied Blake at summer school, Frank then becomes sort of jealous and takes on a defensive argument;

“you weren’t supposed to do Blake at summer school, were you?”

Ritas return has made her aware of the new culture and class she has taken upon herself.

“I feel young like them down there” then she later says,

“I understand now Frank, I know the difference, of its type its quite interesting but its hardly experience.”

This clearly shows that Rita has accepted that she is intelligent and more mature.

Now that Rita is educated she feels suffocated and restricted in Franks study. The jammed window represents this atmosphere.

“Lets open a window, it wont bleeding budge, it hasn’t been opened for generations”

Her use of language and her assumed body language show that she is feeling trapped and wants to break free.

Ritas future starts to brighten up as she realises the doors that are opened by her new education.

“I had to come and tell y’, Frank last night I went to the theatre! A proper one, a pressional theatre.”

She believes that her family had made her feel being twenty six years old was too old to further an education, but she undetured by these comments and believesit is never too late to achieve and that we are always growing and changing.

“Don’t y’ like me now that the little girls grown up, now that y’ can no longer bounce me on Daddy’s knee”

She carries on to say,

“You’re just like the rest of them – you like to keep your natives thick”

She then says,

“I can do without you”

This shows that an education can not only enable you to break away from her dead end job, but also to leave behind the people who don’t believe in what you do, even if it is your own family.

Willy Russel use many different devices to show the apparent change in Ritas personality, use of language and her body language since she attended summer school. Firstly the change in the change of her use of language, Russell changed the way she spoke from the use of slang words to the use of formal, even ‘posh’ words.

The change in her body language is that she becomes more confident in her actions. This is shown by before she visits summer school, she enters the room,

“enter slowly, carrying a suitcase”

But after summer school and Russell has changed her entire body language she enters the room,

“goes to the desk and dumps her bag on it”

That is a prime example of Russell’s skill in manipulating characters and also the audiences perception of the characters.

In act 2 scene 6, Frank attempts to phone Rita to notify her of an examination that is coming up, but only ends up talking to Ritas friends and work colleagues, this tells us that Rita no longer needs Frank which in comparison to near the beginning of the play, she would visit Frank and tell him about useless information like her visiting the theatre.

In conclusion, the literary devices used in ‘Educating Rita’ succesfully show the reader that the changes that occured to Rita while she was in summer school we’re important to her relationships after her new found education. I found this play to be enlightening showing me that something as simple as an education added to a person life can change it for either good or bad. The good being new oppurtunities, the bad being losing loved ones.

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