Post-1914 play Educating Rita- To what extent do you agree that Educating Rita is a feminist play? The play ‘Educating Rita’ is set in Liverpool during the 1970s, with only two main characters: Rita White and Frank. Rita, a vibrant and bubbly twenty-six year old, uneducated, working class woman enrols at the Open University, her real name is Susan, but she changed it to Rita in honour of Rita Mae Brown, a junk novelist.
Frank, however, is an educated, middle class man with a drinking problem, and is intending to tutor Rita at the Open University and help her study literature, although when the course first starts he doesn’t want to teach at the Open University (OU). Before enrolling at the Open University Rita feels her life is passing her by, she says she lives her life day by day, that she feels restricted and unable to make her own choices. “God what’s it like to be free? she says to Frank in Act one Scene one. Rita believes by bettering herself she will have more choice, but she want to change herself she just thinks she thinks it will make her happier after improving her education; Rita doesn’t have a proper education as she says “If I’d started takin’ school seriously, I would have had to become different from me mates, an’ that’s not allowed. ” This shows Rita could never have taken her education seriously.
As she didn’t have the confidence to stand up to her friends and achieve an education, as she lacks knowledge she also lacks a proper vocabulary and abbreviates words like “y” and “D’y” Rita also shows that she is not very well educated as she swears in Frank’s classroom. Rita is a ladies’ hairdresser and during the 1970s this would have been a typical woman’s job, but Rita hates it, she hates all the gossiping only does the job properly when she can be bothered.
She says that her clients “get on me nerves”. Furthermore, Rita doesn’t want to become a housewife, like her mother and other women in her neighbourhood she thinks that the other housewives have no culture and are happy making do with what they have instead of trying to improve it, because they are too stupid to know any better: Rita implies that they drink to much to hide the fact they are too unhappy with their lives like Rita’s mother. Rita doesn’t want to be like this she wants to reak away from the routine and better herself, she wants to learn more, broaden her horizons and move on, she wants to know educated people and be able to discuss literature with them. Her mother also wants more for her daughter, she wants Rita to get a better job, not end up like her, drinking to hide the fact she is so unhappy with her life. Rita is married to Denny, he is a working class, uneducated man who loves Rita very much, and Rita says she loves him, but I feel as though Rita only married him because that’s what everyone expected of her.
Denny and Rita live in a two-up two-down terrace house, they have no children but Denny would like Rita to have a baby so they can be part of a proper family. In Act One Scene One Rita is talking to Frank about Denny’s expectations of her settling down with him and not going on the Open University course, she says “I’m twenty-six. I should have a baby by now; everyone expects it” this quote is feminist as she is saying that everyone expects her to have a baby, as it was a normal thing to do as a women.
But although without Denny knowing, Rita is on the pill, to prevent her from having children; with the advent of the pill it gives women a lot more freedom as they can now choose whether or not they want to become pregnant and have children. Rita later says, “I don’t wanna have a baby yet. I wanna discover meself first. ” During Act One Scene Five, Rita and Denny’s relationship is starting to show cracks, since Rita’s been at the Open University, and it didn’t help their relationship when Denny found out Rita was back on the pill, despite telling him she was off it now.
Denny was left feeling embarrassed, as he and Rita are one of the few couples without children in their neighbourhood, “Come off the pill, let’s have a baby,” he says to Rita, but she refuses. Denny is starting to think and feel like Rita is having an affair with Frank, consequently after finding Rita is back on the pill Denny burns all Rita’s essays and the books Frank gave to her. She tells Frank what Denny has done to her work, as he had burned her current essay, she also tells Frank what Denny had been saying about how Denny thinks she is having an affaire with Frank; “what time have I got for an affair?
I’m busy enough findin’ me self, let alone findin’ someone else. ” Rita is saying that she has is to busy trying to discover herself, discover what makes her ‘tick’ and that she barely has enough time to discover what’s going on with her own life, never mind finding someone to have an affair with. Act One Scene Eight, Denny gives Rita an ultimatum “either I stop comin’ here an’ come off the pill or I could get out altogether” Rita leaves and goes off to London and summer school, she moves in with new flat mate Trish.
After summer school is over she goes back to see Frank, Rita is dressed drastically differently from before she went away, she is wearing new, second hand clothes and showing her improved understanding of literature. She shows how much she changed as she has stopped smoking even though she said in Act One Scene One “everyone seems to have packed up smoking these days. They’re all afraid of gettin’ cancer. ” After passing the OU course, Rita gains a lot more confidence in herself, she can now do things she wasn’t comfortable with before, like talking to other students, being able to express her opinions in a lecture.
She has also gained a lot more freedom to do what she wants to do; this is shown when Frank says, “The hairdresser’s shop. Where you work. Or, should I say worked. ” Rita left her old job as a hairdresser and got a new job working in a bistro, this shows the freedom she now has, by leaving a typical woman’s job that she didn’t like and starting a job where she can socialise with people who understand her. Rita gains new friends, with whom she can have, a proper conversation and she gains a new social class after passing her course.
Rita also has Trish, a friend, flatmate and someone who she looks up to, as she is an educated woman. Although Rita has gained a lot she has also changed a lot, she wears new clothes, pronounces her words better and doesn’t abbreviate as much. Although Rita thought being a middle class woman would be great, she has learned a lot about what middle class people are really like. Frank, a middle class man with an education, but a drunk who gave up on his poetry and life and Trish, also middleclass; she tried to kill herself because she was so unhappy with the way she lived.
You get the feeling that Rita has ended up limiting herself, even though she now has more choice and freedom. In the end Rita admits that she never really liked her friends anyway. Do I agree that Educating Rita is a feminist play to an extent? Yes and no because while Educating Rita does focus on the struggles that Rita faced due to her sex and social class, it also focuses on the fact that not always what you want to be is always the best thing.