What does a comparison of the way the characters and their relationship are presented in Act One, Scene One with the way the characters and their relationship are presented in Act Two, Scenes One to Three reveal about the development of Rita and Frank and their relationship, in Educating Rita? Educating Rita was written in 1980 by the playwright Willy Russell and is one of his most famous plays to date. Since the play has many similarities to Russell’s life, it is viewed as a semi-autobiographical play containing certain similarities to his life; for example both he and Rita were female hairdressers and were under-educated at school. The play is written as a comedy and shows the change in character and personality of a young woman, Rita, through her education at an Open University and also her effect on her tutor Frank. Russell creates humour through the class difference between her and Frank, developing their relationship throughout the play through the time they spend together and the change they act on each other. This change in their relationship and individual character is most noticeable in a comparison between the scenes Act One, Scene One and Act Two, Scenes One to Three. In Act One, Scene One the audience see Rita dramatically erupt onto the scene having had difficulty opening the door into the study. This situation could certainly be viewed as a metaphor for the ill educated Rita struggling to break through the barrier into the educated environment of Frank’s study and is an immediate example of Rita’s enthusiasm to learn. Rita’s entrance is all the more dramatic with the way she expresses her annoyance with Frank’s persistent calls of “Come in!” in her response “I’m comin’ in, aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!” Not only is her language incredibly colloquial, it is also a command directed at Frank; words you would not expect a student to say to their tutor. A key characteristic of Rita in this scene is her background, which Russell highlights by her description of the “erotic” picture she notices: There’s no suppose about it. Look at those tits...But in those days they had to pretend it wasn’t erotic so they made it religious didn’t they? Her thoughts are not exactly sophisticated ideas but have some critical sense to them, showing that she is a clever, observant person with a misunderstood perception of certain things in middle to upper class society. Russell also utilises the substantial difference in literary knowledge of the two characters to show the class difference; where Frank’s is large, Rita’s is virtually non-existent. This difference in knowledge is most noticeable when comparing the differences in literary knowledge between the two: R: I read this poem about fightin’ death... F: Ah- Dylan Thomas... R: No. Roger McGough.
F: Yes. I don’t think I know the actual piece you mean... Furthermore, when Rita offers to share this certain piece with him, she describes it as “the sort of poetry you can understand” which definitely suggests that she is insecure about her ability as a literary critic. In addition she displays a strong lack of self confidence: I was dead surprised when they took me. I don’t suppose they would have done it if it’d been a proper university. The Open University’s different though, isn’t it? The fact that she refers to the students of the university itself as the “real” students and twice talks about the Open University being “different” to the actual university...
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