‘Educating Rita’: Notes on Act 1 Scene 5:
Rita is understandably upset after her husband, Denny, burnt her latest essay and some
books that Frank lent her. Despite her anger and frustration, she refuses to quit the
course, saying it provides her with ‘life itself’. Frank wants to go to the pub, but Rita
insists on staying and discussing Chekhov. We discover that Rita has never been to
the theatre and Frank hates it, but despite this, she manages to persuade him to see an
amateur production of The Importance of being Ernest that evening.
We find out more about the two characters- Rita is married to a controlling, jealous
man, and Frank reveals his girlfriend, Julia, would be very jealous if she knew Frank
was taking Rita (who he calls ‘ravishing’) out to the theatre.
This scene contains further evidence that Rita is a strong, determined person
who is single-minded about obtaining what she wants. Increasingly, she sees a
difference between the expectations and desires of husband/family, and the
lifestyle that she could obtain through education.
RITA: He [Denny] thinks we’ve got choice because we can go into a pub that sells
eight different kinds of lager. (p53)
Find two more relevant quotes from scene 5, either that back up Frank’s character so
far, or Rita’s:
Notes on Act 1 Scene 6
Rita has been to see a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (without being forced
to) and comes into Frank’s study overcome with enthusiasm. Frank receives her
enthusiasm with warmth, (FRANK: I am honoured that you chose me.) - despite it not
being their designated time with each other. Frank also does not mock Rita or
patronise her when she misunderstands the difference between a ‘tragedy’ (in the
Shakespeare sense) and an event which is ‘tragic’. At this point in the play, Frank still
wants to teach Rita and she is still eager to learn from him.
Rita uses phrases like ‘wasn’t his wife a cow?’ to describe the performance she has
seen. The earthy, simple language she uses shows us she still has difficulty expressing
the language needed to write critically about literature.
The exchange of an apple and a soft drink (both p61) are symbolic; Rita’s eyes
are being opened to knowledge (like Eve – of Adam and Eve – in the book of
Genesis in the Bible when she eats the forbidden apple). Likewise, Frank declines
Rita’s soft drink:
…he takes it and looks at it. FRANK: (putting the can down on the desk) No thanks.
This is a symbol of the ‘alcoholic’, dysfunctional professor refusing outside help.
Find two Key quotes to show the change in Rita and/or the developing relationship:
Notes on Act 1 Scene 7
The previous scene finishes with Frank inviting Rita to his house for a dinner party.
We learn that she arrived at the house but couldn’t enter because she was scared of
looking foolish in front of Frank’s friends. Here we see Frank just wanting Rita to be
herself: ‘funny, delightful, charming’, but Rita responds angrily (p66) – she wants to
come across as intelligent and serious as Frank and as (she imagines) his friends are.
Instead of going to Frank’s house, Rita miserably headed to her local pub, and joined
in the singing with Denny, her family and some friends. However, her Mum was
crying, and said: “we could sing better songs than those”. This is Russell’s way of
saying that the working class often settle for less, (Denny wanting Rita to just have
babies), when they could ‘sing a better song’ (have an education, acquire more
This is also a significant scene because we see for the first time just how
desperately Rita wants to change – she becomes angry and upset. Frank is baffled
by this because he likes Rita for who she is – he wants her to become better at
English, but doesn’t want her to have a ‘personality transplant’. All this leads to
the first real conflict in the play, and the scene contains real tension as a result.
Find 3 Key quotes, one to back up Rita’s confusion and worry about the society
Frank inhabits, one to back up Frank’s desire for Rita to stay as who she is, and
one to support the idea that working class society can restrict people.