How does Willy Russell show change in the main character in Educating Rita?
Educating Rita is a drama which was first published as a play in 1983, written by Willy Russell; subsequently, it was made into a film which quickly became a box-office hit. The play consists of a particular theme (education) and it explores the processes that inflict change upon the main character Rita.
The content of the storyline was considered to be quite controversial and diverse for it’s time in that particular society. The Conservative party was presently in power and Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister (The first ever female in English History to be appointed that particular position); Many people had varying opinions of this political status because woman were not usually considered to be ‘suited’ to that specific role.
Before the 1980’s, family values were viewed very differently in comparison to our morals and religious views today. The circumstantial generation back then were rather stereotypical and judgemental towards women; they were expected to get married, have children and act as a comprehensive housewife while their hard-working husbands were out earning a living to support the family financially. However, a little while after Margaret Thatcher was elected, laws and social views changed significantly.
The female Prime Minister encouraged young women to broaden their education and independently take on what was considered to be ‘male roles’ in the progressive world of employment. Women were becoming more independent. This is exactly what influenced Rita in the play; she is eager to find her own place in society and she proved that the only way she could do this, was to gain an education and embark on a Literature course at the local Open University.
At this stage, Rita is unaware of the challenges she is yet to face; it becomes clear to the audience that her Family (her husband Denny in particular), are rather sceptical towards her new-found attitude. Denny seems to be rather aggravated at the thought of Rita neglecting him for education; he does not hesitate to express his opinions on the matter in order to emotionally black-mail her to adjust her philosophical way of thinking. “It’s dead easy Susan – you stop going to that University and stop taking the pill or you’re out.” This extract from the script portrays Denny as slightly insensitive and it reveals to us that he is quite inconsiderate towards Rita’s feelings.
Many viewers may think that Rita’s husband is jealous of the relationship she starts to develop with Frank, (her University lecturer). Throughout the play, Frank makes a lot of contributions towards the change in Rita’s character. In the scene where they are both discussing her issues with Denny, Frank mentions a particular phrase which his ex-wife once said to him after their divorce: “You are having an affair with literature.” This comment strikes a chord with Rita and her current situation.
Denny still calls Rita by her birth name ‘Susan’ to prove a point that he knows her best. The reason why Susan changes her name to Rita, is because her favourite writer was named ‘Rita Mae Brown’ this impulsive name change made her feel more intelligent; it encouraged her to persist and follow in the footsteps of the socially accepted footsteps of an educated citizen. This act was clearly not approved of by her husband, but we begin to notice that Rita’s personality is changing – she starts to develop her own peace of mind. “I wanna learn and pass exams like they do” This line from Rita accentuates her motivation to change and become a better person.
By critically analysing the language that Willy Russell exerts on each individual, we can develop a conceptualised interpretation of the change that the main character goes through. Throughout the first few scenes in the play, Rita’s language is rather bold and explicit ‘I’ll say something like, “I’m really fucked,” dead loud and it...