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Willy Russell, Educating Rita

von Friedemann Winkler

  • Englisch-Klausur (Jahrgang 13)
  • 3-stündig
  • 13 Punkte (vor Korrektur)

 

Willy Russell, Educating Rita

Act II, Scene 5
Till:

„I’ve got a room full of books. I know what clothes to wear, what wine to buy, what plays to see, what papers and books to read. I can do without you.[…]

 

 

Assignments

1. Sum up briefly (in about 90 words) what scene 5 is about.

2. Explain the development that has lead Frank to say to Rita: “Like you I shall change my name; from now on I shall insist upon being called Mary Shelley.” (p. 2, ll. 6-8).
State what Frank wants to express with this sentence.

3. Analyse how Rita’s changing personality is reflected in her language.

4. Rita claims “I am educated now” (p. 2, l. 30)



1.

In scene 5 Rita visits Frank again to tell him about her opinion about his poems. She has understood them and praises them for being witty and profound. Frank, however, although first feeling flattered, dislikes the change in Rita’s personality. She has lost her common sense and now hides behind phrases representing other people’s opinions. Frank even compares himself with Mary Shelley, who let a character in her novel create a monster. With this in mind he rips his poems. Rita cannot understand him and accuses him of taking too much influence while she does not need it. The scene ends in disagreement.

2.

Frank proposes calling himself Mary Shelley, because like a character in her novel he thinks he has created a monster. Frankenstein used parts of dead bodies to assemble his horrible-looking experiment. Of course Rita is not horrible – least of all looking like a monster. Nevertheless there is a connection, because Frank has changed Rita from a normal working-class-woman to something between the “castes”. She has gained education but in exchange she has lost her common sense. Frank desperately looks for the spontaneous, subjective comments he once liked, but finds nothing but objectivity and empty phrases. Rita also realizes that she cannot have a normal conversation with other working-class people any more. While she thinks she could belong to the middle class some time Frank is not too sure about this. Rita has not acquired a better culture, a “better song to sing”, but only another one.

Frank’s poems are full of allusions. He is referring to other high-brow literature in them, so Rita could not have understood them in the beginning, not knowing about the novels or poems referred to. She would have called them a “heap of shit”. Although not being fond of Rita’s opinion Frank would have accepted it as a normal working-class member’s reaction and as a “breath of fresh air”. Now he has to deal with something which contains some professional critics’ opinions expressed in stiff phrases but nothing of Rita at all.
Telling Rita about Frankenstein Frank indirectly wants to make her think about her life and redirect her way of thinking in the direction of subjectivity, although he told her to be objective earlier.

3.

When Rita comes into Frank’s room and starts talking the changes in her language can be seen. She tries not to use informal language or swear words. When telling Frank about his poems she talks in long, complex sentences. Rita has become more objective, which is reflected in her way of arguing. She does not just say “it was crap” or “it was good” but tells Frank exactly what she likes about his poems.
On the first page she uses only a few elisions (i.e. l.19 “an’”, l.24 “somthin’”) and not a single swear word. Her language seems to be more formal, everything well thought about.
When Rita gets angry her origin is revealed in her way of speaking. Suddenly she uses swear words (l.29) and elisions (i.e. l. 31 “y’” l. 32 “an’”, …) again. Saying “I am educated” using a long form seems to be misplaced here. Only seconds later she has herself under control again and returns to talking formally.


4.

Is Rita educated at the end of the play? This controversial issue can not be addressed with just “yes” or “no”. There are many aspects in which Rita has gained education, but there are arguments against this, too.
Of course Rita’s sophisticated knowledge about literature can be considered as education. She is able to tell the difference between highbrow- and lowbrow-literature based on more than her being able to understand it now. Furthermore Rita does not use impulsive, subjective comments to give her opinion about a book in one short sentence anymore.
Her formal language made it possible for her to get into contact with other students, which results in an increasing self-confidence. She is even able to ask questions while being looked at by many people.
On the other hand Rita cannot deny her origin. She is a working-class member and will always stay one. When she gets angry she falls back on using Scouse and swear words.
Her argumentation about literature does not contain much of her unfiltered opinion any longer. Instead of that it is just assembled of other critics’ views, put in nice sounding but empty phrases.
Is somebody who knows about literature really educated? I don’t think it is that easy. Without saying that Rita is stupid I would say it is reasonable to bear in mind that she was “educated” only for one year. She didn’t learn anything at school and has a way of thinking that is different from middle-class people.
You can compare her knowledge about literature with the one of people who think they are good at maths or physics, but who can only use a formula given without understanding how it works. In my opinion it is of course clear, that Rita has developed, but you can hardly call her educated yet.

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