Educating Rita is a play written by Willy Russell in Thatherite Britain in the early 1980’s, when the role of women was to earn a living for the family and produce children to carry on the family name. Rita is
a young hairdresser working in Liverpool and she is about to embark on an educating journey of finding herself through the teaching of an Open University. Frank is a university lecturer and will be teaching Rita what she wants to know about literature and another world outside of her own. Russell has interpreted the character of Rita as a copy of himself. This is because he was also a hairdresser and went to a night school to do his O levels before he became a famous writer.
When we first see Frank he is in his office and appears to be looking for a book on the shelf. The audience then realises that he is actually looking for a bottle of whisky that he has hidden behind a book. This is symbolic for that Frank is hiding his drinking problems behind his work and education. Another example of Frank hiding his problems away from others is that when he drinks the whisky from a mug. This is so people won’t see his problems and the contents of the mug.
The first time in which Rita in introduced to the play is her first encounter of what it’s like in Frank’s world. She gets to Frank’s door but it appears that it is stuck. She struggles to enter but eventually she gets in. This problem with the door is symbolic for that Rita will find it very hard to get I to the way of living in an educated environment. This door is also symbolic the next time Rita goes to the University.
This is because she brings some oil and tries fixing the faulty door. This shows her determination to get an education and how much she wants to learn. When Rita first enters Frank’s office she is amazed. She never sits down and goes straight to the window. Throughout the play whenever she is in the office she goes to the window. Looking down at the “real students” studying on the grass. This is what Rita dreams of being. A “real student”.
Frank has a picture of a naked woman on the wall. This is one of the first things that Rita notices. She says, “It’s very erotic.” And Franks reply is just “Erm yes, I suppose it is-“. This shows that Frank hasn’t looked at the painting in a very long time. He also seems to have lost all interest in art and women.
Both Frank and Rita both have completely different ways of living. They also have very different accents. Rita’s is a strong Liverpudlien accent whilst Frank talks with Received Pronunciation. This is where he doesn’t have an accent. It could be said that he speaks the standard way. Frank also speaks in Standard English. This is where he says his words like they are written in the dictionary and everyone will understand what he means. Also Rita swears a lot. She doesn’t know how to act in different situations so she just acts the way she normally does at home. By swearing and using inappropriate taboo language. Examples of her bad language are “tits” “sod” and “fuckin’”. Examples of Rita’s accent interpreted in the writing of the play are “y’” which is meant to be you and “won’ I” which is meant to be won’t I.
Frank and Rita sometimes get confused with each other on several occasions in the play. Some examples of this are when Frank is referring to the poet “Yeats” Rita thinks he is talking about “Yates’s” the wine lodge. This is probably the most important point in the play because it shows that Frank and Rita come from completely different ways of life.
Rita speaks with a lot of dysphemism. This is where the language she uses is shocking and impolite. Examples of this are when she is talking about the woman on the painting she says “tits”. The euphemistic way of saying this could be breasts. Frank speaks with a lot of euphenism. This is the way of saying something in the polite terms. He does this when Rita is saying that she is stupid and not bright enough to be a real “student”. Instead of just agreeing with Rita, Frank says, “it’s supposed to embrace a more comprehensive studentship”. Now of course Rita wouldn’t understand what Frank had just said but it is a more polite way of agreeing with her.
The main themes of Educating Rita are Self-discovery, change and escapism. Russell establishes the differences between Frank and Rita by typing Rita’s accent differently, by showing that Frank speaks all his words like they are spelt in the Dictionary and so on.