Educating Rita and the British Class System

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1st major course work
Monika Tanaka Van de Ven
Words: 800

In my study of the British class system from the late 20th century, I gathered information on how the government and the people of Britain placed themselves within the class structure. I also developed an understanding of the role that class structure has in the play Educating Rita. In this essay I will discuss how class structure worked in Britain in the late 20th century, and how it affected Rita, her and Frank’s relationship, and her movement into the world.

In Britain in the late 20th century, people were separated by the government into different classes using grades. These grades are A, B, C1, C2, D, and E, these were defined by what your profession was. Then there was the unofficial class system, which was used more generally and was defined by profession, and wealth. These classes were; under class, working class (unskilled, semi-skilled), working class (skilled), lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and upper class. As I improved my understanding of how this class system worked in Britain, I understood more about Rita, her relationship with Frank, and how this class structure affected her movement into the world.

In Educating Rita, the protagonist Rita challenged herself to leave her social class to become an Open University graduate. In the late 70’s/early 80’s university education was mostly unheard of for the working class, only the few who received scholarships went through to complete tertiary studies, instead they went to work, leaving the middle and upper classes to complete their studies and go into high-level occupations. Rita expresses this emotion in her first meeting with Frank- “I was dead surprised when they took me. I don’t suppose they would have done if it’d been a proper university.” Going from the working class life she lead, into the middle class world, was rebellious, and led Rita to do things that would never have been expected from a hairdresser....
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