This sample essay on Educating Rita Costumes provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Educating Rita is a play by Willy Russell exploring the relationship between Open University tutor Frank and his lively, ambitious student Rita who wants to become an educated woman and “know everything”.
Frank and Rita’s relationship inevitably changes throughout the play. Between the first and last scenes Rita changes considerably into someone Frank thinks he can hardly recognise.
At the beginning of the play Rita is a twenty-six-year-old working class woman who lives on an estate in Liverpool. She conveys her social setting in her speech, being very direct and straightforward.
“This was the pornography of it’s day…do you think it’s erotic?” (Act 1, scene 1)
She is bubbly, chatty and flamboyant.
Rita has higher expectations than the majority of her class and is angered when she believes that her class is not represented accurately.
“An’ like the worst thing is that y’ know the people who are supposed to like represent the people on our estate, y’ know the Daily Mirror an’ the Sun, an’ ITV an’ the Unions, what are they tellin’ people to do? They just tell them to go out an’ get more money, don’t they…The Unions tell them to go out an’ get more money an ITV an’ the papers tell them what to spend it on so the disease is always covered up.
” (Act 1, scene 4)
Her job as a hairdresser reflects her class and her marriage is very rocky.
“Denny found out I was on the Pill again…he burnt all me books. I told him I’d only have a baby when I had a choice.” (Act 1, scene 5)
At the beginning of the play Rita is being pressurised by Denny to have a baby. He does not appear to understand her and his final ultimatum is proof of this. According to Rita he is:
“…wonderin’ where the girl he married has gone to.” (Act 1, scene 5)
Rita knows that:
“…she’s gone, an’ I’ve taken her place.” (Act 1, scene 5)
Rita is breaking out of the stereotyping of her class. Denny makes her feel suffocated and without choice, while Frank gives her much-needed space. Denny’s pressurising seems to make her more determined to reach her goal.
Rita left school at sixteen with no qualifications and no ambitions.
“See, if I’d started takin’ school seriously I would have had to become different from me mates, an’ that’s not allowed.” (Act 1, scene 2)
Rita wanted to fit in with her school friends and family, but:
“…there was always somethin’ in me head…tellin’ me I might have got it all wrong.” (Act 1, scene 2)
She began to doubt all that she had once held as true.
“Is this the absolute maximum I can expect from this livin’ lark?…An’ it’s really temptin’ to go out an’ get another dress y’ know, it is. Cos it’s easy…it doesn’t upset anyone around y’.” (Act 1, scene 2)
Was what she was doing – “buying new dresses” all the time – the maximum she wanted to get out of her life? Rita resisted another dress and set her sights on a goal – to change her self – not from the outside, like her customers at the hairdressing salon were prone to doing, but from the inside.
If I were directing ‘Educating Rita’, scene 1, I would have Rita in colourful and eye-catching 1980s fashion – a short skirt, fish net stockings and a clashing animal-print top, conveying her spirited and comic character, which is in bold relief to the rest of the university. She would be in ludicrously high heels that she has difficulty walking in. This would magnify her inability to fit in and shows that she has yet to learn that wearing the right does not make on educated.
Rita is disillusioned with life because she is not the person she would like to be. She is stuck in a rut and feels unfulfilled.
“Because – because we could sing better songs than those.” (Act 1, scene 7)
Rita’s mother is in much the same situation as her daughter but with one major difference – she is submissive. She is putting on a face, ignoring the fact that she is unhappy and carrying on regardless. Rita realises that she does not want to end up like this and so aims towards making a change by becoming educated.
As a result of this Rita decides to change her life and enrols on an Open University course to study English Literature.
Our first impression of Rita is of her struggling with Frank’s door. The stage direction tells us that “the door swings open, revealing Rita”. This is a parody of her personality because it is a dramatic, unforgettable entrance. She gives a first impression of being full of life from the way she bursts into Frank’s office and starts talking straight away.
Rita’s first conversation with Frank tells us a lot about her character.
“I’m comin’ in aren’t I? It’s that stupid bleedin’ handle on the door. Y’ wanna get it fixed.” (Act 1, scene 1)
This conveys that she is direct, extrovert and vivacious. We can tell Rita is different from Frank’s other pupils from his surprised and vaguely stunned response to her entrance. She is unique; set far apart from the other students.
Rita is enthusiastic about everything in Act 1, scene 1. She is particularly entranced with Frank’s window.
“I love this window…do you like it?”
“I don’t often consider it, actually.” (Act 1, scene 1)
This piece of symbolism has a significant quality to it that enhances Frank’s cynical, bored and stifled personality. Throughout the play Rita gazes out at the students through the window, as though there is a barrier between her and what she wants to become. It also symbolises that she is constantly looking ahead and planning a better future for herself. If we study this further we could liken Rita to a bird wanting to leave the nest and join others with whom she is socially compatible.
Frank, however, pays little attention to the window. Until he meets Rita he prefers his office – like his personality – to be stale. It is Rita who adds humour and joy to Frank’s life.
Frank, who views Rita as positive and invigorating – “the first breath of fresh air that’s been in this room for years” – in direct contrast, views himself very negatively.
“Everything I know…is that I know absolutely nothing.” (Act 1, scene 1)
He believes that he is an appalling teacher.
Even this early on in the play we can see how Frank and Rita will help each other. From Frank, Rita could achieve what she desires – an education. She could gain the knowledge to help her through life and to help her mix with a social class in which she feels that she would like to belong.
Frank could also learn a lot from Rita’s personality. She could influence him to be more light-hearted – to reveal a spirit and joy that he may otherwise have smothered.
If I were directing the play, Frank’s office would be dusty, messy and stuffy to show the contrast that Rita brings when she enters. There would be a faint smell of alcohol, indicating that Frank keeps his whiskey bottles in the room. The closed window would be a prominent feature and would have a thin layer of dust on the windowsill to show that symbolically it id hardly – if ever – opened. On the bookshelf there would be some tomes in the ‘C’ section that are in disarray, as though someone has been rummaging through them recently. This would coincide with Act 1, scene 5, when Frank is looking for his whiskey bottle behind a Checkhov book.
By the end of the play Rita has gone through a metamorphosis. She would e wearing a university scarf because she has previously commented on how she relates this to an educated person. Now that she is educated she may feel that she is entitled to this. She would also be wearing the dress that Frank buys her in Act 2, scene 7. Her hair would be in an elegant French plait to indicate that she is no longer the old Rita, who would have thrown her hair into a quick ponytail, but had morphed into someone who has the time and knowledge to make the most of what she has got. Most of all, her appearance will be a major piece of evidence that Rita has become a conventional woman and has left her old self behind.
In the final scene Rita enters Frank’s office calmly. This is in direct contrast to Act 1 when Rita constantly “flies in” dramatically.
By now their relationship has changed. I would show that Rita no longer needs Frank through the stage directions. Rita would not go to the window in the last scene because she no longer has to see what she wants – she has already got it.
Frank’s envy of Rita’s relationship with the students would be conveyed by him turning his back on her while she is talking about her new-found friends. Rita would sit in the seat behind Frank’s desk, something that she would never have done in Act 1, scene 1.
There would be a palpable tension between the two characters established by their body language, which would be slightly awkward.
Frank believes that he changed Rita for the worse.
“From now on I shall insist upon being known as Mary, Mary Shelley…” (Act 2, scene 5)
The Mary Shelley allusion is significant because she wrote ‘Frankenstein’, a novel in which Victor Frankenstein dabbles in science and creates a monster that he cannot control. The implication is that Frank has created the Rita who stands before him and over whom he has now lost influence.
In the same scene Rita says about Frank’s poetry:
“…what makes it more – more…what did Trish say?” (Act 2, scene 5)
This passage seems unnatural coming from Rita. She stutters and stumbles, no longer having her own opinions because she is so impressed with Trish’s. She emulates Trish and uses her flatmate’s opinions instead of her own, invoking Frank’s revulsion.
At the end of the play both Rita and Frank have come full circle. Frank has become more light-hearted and Rita is showing signs of her old self when talking about Tiger.
“He’s a bit of a wanker really.” (Act 2, scene 7)
Rita’s comment about Tiger shows that she is aware, whatever Frank may think, of his self-obsession.
She now knows what an educated lifestyle is like; she knows what wines, books and clothes to buy. Most importantly, she is now an independent woman with choice. She has got back what Denny, her friends and her family stole from her in her youth.
At the end of the play when Rita is cutting Frank’s hair, I would have a faded blackout and the sounds of birds singing to signify the symbolism of Rita being a bird leaving the nest. The window would be open to show how Rita has influenced Frank and, like the breath of fresh air she has been compared to, has made his life more bearable and full of light.
The final impression we are left with, mysteriously, is that Frank and Rita’s future is left entirely to our own speculation. Will Frank be happy? Will Rita ever be fully satisfied? The audience will never know, but the birds singing in the background and the sun shining through the open window can give hope.