Critical Analysis of the Play - Educating Rita

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In his play Educating Rita, Willy Russel extensively uses the literary techniques of character interplay, metaphors, irony and symbolism to communicate the ideas of social class differences and personal growth through the story of Rita, a young girl who is committed to excel in life by learning literature and the art of essay writing with the Open College.

In the middle of the play in Act 1 Scene 7, you could see Rita halfway through to her journey, but at this stage she neither relates to people from the working class, where she and her family belong, nor does she reach the cultural understanding of those of the middle class. Rita is torn between the decision to return to where she once belonged, or to go on with her studies that will enable her to enjoy the privileges of the elite. Despite the numerous challenges that Rita encounters, she is committed to personal development. The turning point of the scene is her final decision to continue her education after learning that her mother regrets about not singing better songs- not attempting to educate herself to have more freedom of choice in life.

Being invited to the home party by her mentor, Frank, Rita ends up with not turning up, and arguably with valid reasons. The social and cultural conflict between the two could obviously be deduced from their dialogue, and thats when the playwright uses his arsenal of literary techniques.(235 words).

Act 1 Scene 7 Quote

Slide 1 (183 words)

FRANK -and having to cope with six instead of eight was extremely hard on Julia. Im not saying that I needed any sort of apology; you dont turn up thats up to you, but

RITA I did apologize.

FRANK Sorry couldnt come, scribbled on the back of your essay and thrust through the letter box? Rita, thats hardly an apology.

RITA What does the word sorry mean if its not an apology? page 43

Technique Character Interplay (Franks and Ritas speech)

Ideas Middle class-working class division shown through their speech discrepancies: Oxford English and flowery manner of speech vs working class Scouse (Liverpool working class dialect) directness

This character interplay is an example of the differences between middle class versus working class speech habits. Members of the two working classes differ not only in diction but also they use words to express themselves. More specifically, In slide one, you can hear how Franks Oxford English and his flowery, convoluted sentences differs from Ritas working class Scouse dialect, which is blunt and direct. FRANK and having to cope with six instead of eight was extremely hard on Julia. Im not saying that I needed any sort of apology; you dont turn up thats up to you, but -- By this, Frank wants to give Rita a hint that he, not his wife, was upset that Rita had not turned up, but the meaning of Franks sentences is quite confusing for Rita, whose sorry told her lecturer exactly what she meant, the apology: What does the word sorry mean if its not an apology? The difference in speech habits highlights the division between the classes. As the playwright aims to show how by language you would immediately recognise who is who, the characters speech has the evident effect on the reading audience and the one who are watching the play on the stage.

Act 1 Scene 7 Quote

Slide 2 (208 words)

RITA: ..an I tried on five different dresses. They all looked bleedin awful ;

An I cant remember anything [ what to say at the party];

I got the wrong bus to your house;

Id bought the wrong sort of wine

FRANK Spanish plonk.

RITA It was Spanish. An I could not come in [ Franks house]

Page 44

Technique Character Interplay, symbolisms (dresses), window ( freedom), irony

Ideas The coming climax of to be or not to be: determination to get to your freedom the education can give you being halfway to your goal, or to give up and return to where you belong to.

Frank is surprised to learn that Rita failed to attend the party due to uncertainties of how the elite partygoers would judge her. Rita had to explain to him that she was willing to go even without her husband Denny, who had rejected the idea to accompany her from the start. Poor Rita began her preparation by trying on all her most beautiful dresses, and though she concluded that they were bledding awful to fit her in Franks company, she had to wear at least one of them. For Rita, a dress is symbolic for a new life, like a new skin which will show she has finally has the new social status. Rita could not enter Franks house empty handed, so she, having no idea what kind of wine could be considered right in her situation, chose the one she knew, tasted before and could afford: a bottle of sparkling Spanish wine. Frank says, ..it would not have mattered if you walked in with a bottle of Spanish plonk. Rita confirms that it was Spanish. Rita cant recognize the irony the Professor expresses, pointing to her working class inferiority. Ritas frustration and hesitation in thinking she forgot all the intelligent phrases to keep on the conversation in Franks company, also resulted in her being absent-minded and taking the wrong bus Looking through the window ( the symbol of liberty Rita is striving for) at Franks guests and realizing that is she is not their bird of feather( giving up her freedom of life choices), the young woman comes back to the working class pub to join her family and the way of life she lead before.

Act 1 Scene 7 Quote

Slide 3 (186 words)

RITA Just because you pass on the pub doorway an hear them singin, an you think were are O.K., but were all survivin with the spirit intact Well, I did join in with the singnin ; I am half caste Id decided I would not come here(to Franks lessons)again

.., mother had stopped singin and she was cryin because we could be singin a better song.( the working class peoples desire to embrace better opportunities in life)

Page 45

RITA And thats why I came back.

Page 46

Technique Symbolism: doorway (the difficult decision to start a new life);

Metaphor: Singing better songs to live a much better, interesting life

Character Motivation

Ideas Never give up your dream, otherwise you will regret the lost opportunities.

(Rita sees that her mother has regrets and does not want to repeat her fate).

Sing a better song: work hard, to achieve your freedom of choices through education.

Rita admits that she went to the local pub despite the fact that she had vowed not to return. She says, Well, I did join in with the singnin ; I am half caste Id decided I would not come here [to Franks lessons] again. Russell uses the symbolism of the door (pub doorway) to show that Rita is giving up the idea of her getting education and having freedom of life choices, but it was a bitter, very difficult decision, as she had already put some much effort to that freedom. Just an hour later though, Rita will pass that door again (making the difficult decision not to lose her opportunity), returning to her dream, as she saw how her mum, who started crying in the middle of the singin regrets she had not tried to embrace the better opportunities- singin better songs-, which is a metaphor for a better life- when she was younger. Rita uses her mothers regrets as motivation to thrive to new life with the freedom of choices whatever it takes. Notably, she says, And thats why I came back. This statement shows her determination to pursue her academic degree.

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Reference

Russell, W, 1991. Educating Rita (Class Sets). England: Longman Group Limited.

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