Explore the way Rita is presented in the play ‘Educating Rita’ At the beginning of the play Rita decides to sign up for Open University course. She is bored with her job as a hairdresser and is in an unhappy marriage. Rita feels held back by her local community and believes that the only way to improve her life is through education. To begin with Rita believes that she needs to know “everything”. She tells Frank, her only tutor, that she does not visit the theatre or opera because she does not understand it. She believes that by gaining more knowledge she will become more socially aware.
However Rita does not understand different types of literature. She thinks that E. M. Forster’s novel, ‘Howard’s End’ is ‘crap’ and enjoys an old book which shows very few literacy skills ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’. Rita is tired of being held back by Denny and she wants to go new places in her life. She wants to become more confident in herself. She is fed up and wants her life to change. She is unhappy, and frustrated with her job, relationship and life. As the play goes on, Rita gradually becomes better educated in literature. She starts to depend on Frank less and does not communicate as much about her private life.
For example, she started to share a flat with an educated woman named Trish. Rita changed her job and she started to call herself by her ‘real’ name, Susan. Rita does not tell Frank until later on when he tries to call her work and he is informed that Rita no longer lives there. In Act 2, 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 what plays to see. She told him that she no longer needed him and it is sufficient to say they had an argument and informed him that she could do without him now.
Rita’s confidence grows throughout the play and 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 grows she starts to spend more time with the other students including sitting on the lawn with them to the point where she is late for her tutor session with Frank. As her relationship with the other students develops, they are quick to ask her on holiday with them.
The fact that Rita is now bonding with the other student’s shows she doesn’t feel left out anymore. She feels she is good as them. She also goes to see a play by Shakespeare for the first time which she would have never done before because she would never have understood how it was written or acted. During the play Rita and Frank had mutual feelings for each other, however the relationship was at times complicated. Towards the end of the play, a happier, more confident and ‘knowledgeable’ Rita told Frank how much she appreciated learning from him. She did not like his life choices (drinking alcohol to excess) but felt he was a good teacher.
She also showed her appreciation by giving him an engraved pen. Rita decided to give Frank a well needed hair cut as a gift of her appreciation. Russell shows Rita’s external transformation by how she enters and leaves Frank’s study. At the beginning Rita bursts through his door unannounced and out of breath, she unpacks her notepad and pencil case and gets into a full conversation about how the door is broken and how Frank really should get it fixed. This is a metaphor about how Rita is slowly breaking down Frank’s barriers into his private closed off life.
By the end of the play Rita 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 brought in some oil and oiled the lock, so she did not have to fight her way in. This shows how far Rita has personally developed through these stages of the play. To begin with Rita struggled to adjust to her role as a student. She was married and what made it harder is that she was in a relationship with someone who did not want her to be educated and at one point burnt all her books. Rita was distraught by this wanton and unnecessary act.
By the end of the play the audience discovers that Rita is now an educated woman. Rita can now fulfill her dreams about being an educated woman. We do not know what her aspirations are now that she is an educated woman. At the end of the play she is left to decide whether she is to have a baby, go to Australia with Frank, go to France with Tiger or even go onto further education. Russell leaves the audience with these thoughts to create an atmosphere of suspense. Russell wants the audience to keep guessing and wondering about how Rita carries on her life and how she is now to create her own destiny about what she does.