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The Metamorphosis Of Rita In Willy Russell's Educating Rita

2261 words - 9 pages

The Metamorphosis of Rita in Willy Russell's Educating Rita

Educating Rita by Willy Russell tells the story of 'Rita' White a
twenty six year old hairdresser, who is trying to gain an education at
the Open University. Russell has written the whole story as a play
with only two characters, Frank and Rita. All scenes are in Frank's
study and follow the dialogue between Frank and Rita. Russell wrote
the play in the 1980s and it is somewhat autobiographical, it explores
the structure of society and its link with education at a time when
education was becoming available for all classes. In this essay, I
will explore these issues by looking at the relationship of the two
characters and the personal fulfilment each of the characters gets out
of the relationship.

In the first scene, we are introduced to the play's two main
characters, Frank and Rita. Russell immediately creates these two
characters as the antithesis of each other, Frank, the tutor, is a
very intelligent, well-educated man. Rita is not as intelligent or
intellectual as Frank; she comes across as very blunt and colloquial.
She does not act as someone is expected to in the company of a
stranger and she does not feel at all inferior to Frank. As soon as
she enters the room, she takes a commanding role and is telling Frank
what to do. Frank is shocked and surprised by this apparent role
reversal with the student dominating the teacher. He immediately tries
to regain his position of authority "You are?" This is a very upper
class phrase and Rita, unused to such language takes this phrase
literally, "What am I?" Frank gets confused and so it continues until
Frank gives up and studies the admission papers. This confusion is
comical, and importantly Russell has already shown us that it is
useless for Frank to try to gain any authority over Rita, she is at
the college because she wants to be and she is going to do things in
her own way. Also, we are shown that Rita does not understand the
principals of politeness and she does not yet see the clues to
language. Rita does not recognise social etiquette at this stage of
the play. Russell continues, through the scene emphasising the
antithesis of these two characters. He uses differences in speech,
literature, where they live, and even what television channels they
watch to illustrate the opposites in ideas and status. As is typical
of Rita in the beginning of the book she appears to have a lot of
self-confidence, however I do not believe this brashness reflects her
inner feelings but is merely a disguise for her true feelings and
nervousness. In the next scenes, we learn more about the characters
backgrounds, in particular the reasons behind Franks drinking and why
Rita wants an education so much. We are also given more evidence
showing us the differences between the two...

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