Educating Rita was written in 1985 by William Russell, the play was set in the same time that it was written. The 1980’s were an important time for Women , they had equal rights but were still not seen as equal they were often paid less than men and were looked at as having no place in the working world let alone the academic one. Margaret Thatcher had become the first female prime minister and for the first time women had a role model to look up to, someone that showed them that women did have a place in the working and academic worlds and that they could do the same jobs as men just as well.
Class was of high importance lower class people were deemed unable to be educated of it and to be less than those of a higher class. William Russell’s play is an attack on the social divide of society at the time, he uses humour to soften the attack and make sure that it is well received. Rita is a 26 year old working class woman, she is strong willed and determined to be educated both her sex and class impede her from progress she believes that being educated will make her happy. Franks is on the other hand on the opposite end of the social spectrum he is educated and is fairly well off he works as a university educator.
Frank has a drinking problem as well as a failed marriage, he has learnt through personal experience that education doesn’t equal happiness. In the early scenes of the play we see Franks in control of Rita he shapes her in an image that he wants someone that is educated but different to your average upper class person. He dictates what she learns and what she watches, Rita in turn doesn’t question Frank because she believes that he knows everything about literature, she believes that he is an educated person who has class something that she strives for.
The audience would have agreed with this as many of them believed that Women were not meant for the world of education, some of the female audience may have disagreed due to the women’s rights movements happening at the time and because of figures such as Margaret Thatcher who were well educated. A strong part of the play is language, at the start of the play Frank speaks Standard English and doesn’t get any of the references that Rita makes “Y’know Frank, Frank ness Elliot’s brother” “What?
” its clearly shown how Frank has trouble understanding Rita’s references we also see how the famous figures they know are worlds apart “When you said Elliot I assumed you meant T. S. Elliot” Frank assumed the Frank Rita was talking about was a poet while Rita was in fact making reference to a famous police officer . Likewise Rita doesn’t understand many of the references the Franks makes, Rita speaks using strong colloquial language. She shows this when she comments on the nude religious painting Franks has on his wall using colloquial as well as vulgar language “There’s no suppose about it look at those tits.
” This shows her working class background and how she can only see things on one level. The reader for the most part won’t get many references Rita makes, the audience is almost like Frank in a sense as they will use Standard English rather than strong colloquial language that Rita uses although the reader may use colloquial language it will not be the same as the one Rita uses as many of the references are out of date now and won’t be remembered.
In act 2 scene 1 we see Rita return from Summer school she comes back a changed woman “(she turns on the spot to show her new clothes)” the news clothes symbolise a changed woman. The new clothes she comes in are second hand though, this symbolises the knowledge she has received the knowledge that she has never questioned. It’s not her own and she has never thought about what she is saying she is just repeating it like a robot. We begin to see that other people are beginning to influence Rita in what she wears and how she acts. “She’s great you know dead classy.
” We can see that Rita is starting to move up the class ladder, she is able to live with someone who is in a higher class than her without sticking out to much. We also see that now she is looking for opportunity, Willy Russell symbolises this when he writes “(struggling to open the window)” the closed window represents Frank who is blocking any opportunities that Rita is offered this is shown more clearly when Rita returns from summer school. We see Frank is uneasy over the sudden progress she has made in summer school “Of course; you don’t do Blake without doing innocence and experience, do y?