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Educating Rita

This material was prepared by Eve Mayes, Condell Park High School.

Key vocabulary to use in responses on Educating Rita
Character profiles
Analysis of two key extracts
Educating Rita and the belonging prescription statements

Key vocabulary to use in responses on Educating Rita

Look at the list of words related to belonging and Educating Rita.

The "Red light" words are important to know to write well on Educating Ritaand belonging. "Amber light" words are reasonably important. "Green light" words are good to know to enhance your response.

Look up and learn any words that you are unfamiliar with.

RED LIGHT - You HAVE to know these words and what they mean

Words from the Syllabus rubric:

Acceptance
Assumptions
Barriers
Challenge
Connections
Constructed
Contexts
Enrich
Identity
Perceptions
Perspectives
Potential
Relationships
Representations
Understanding
Vary
Words related to Educating Rita:

Academic
Alienation
Bitterness
Discontent/discontentment
Isolated
Liberated
Literature
Pretentious
Snobbery
Sophistication
Superficial
Transformation
Unique

AMBER LIGHT - You SHOULD know these words and what they mean

Affluence
Ambiguous
Anxiety
Confront
Contempt
Cynicism
Desperation
Detached
Dismissive
Harmonious
Intimate
Intimidated
Persevere
Poignant
Prejudice
Satisfaction
Sentimentality
Solitary
Tenderness

GREEN LIGHT - It's GOOD for you to know these words

Ambivalence
Camaraderie
Indifference
Solidarity
Turmoil
Vulnerable

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Character profiles

Since Educating Ritais a two-hander (two-person play), other characters are introduced as they relate to Rita or Frank. Rita and Frank have a significant influence on each other's notions of belonging to the academy, to educated society, working class society, family, friends and self. Other characters also contribute to Frank and Rita's struggles with belonging and non-belonging.

Fill in the Character Profile Table as a way of summarising the characters' relationships to each other and to belonging.

Character Experience of belonging/ alienation How this character shapes Frank or Rita's sense of belonging
Rita


   
Frank


   
Denny


   
Julia


   
Rita's mother


   
Trish


   
Tiger


   
University hierarchy


   

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Analysis of two key extracts

Read the two extended response paragraphs written about Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 2 Scene 6. These paragraphs are extracts from an extended response on Educating Rita (see question below).

Complete the activities to understand the features of a strong extended response:

Question: How is the concept of belonging presented in Educating Rita?

Extract One: Act 1 Scene 1 (pp.2-3)

Willy Russell explores the concept of belonging in the first scene of Educating Ritathrough language and dramatic techniques. It is evident from the moment that Frank and Rita meet that their perceptions of belonging are vastly different. Rita's entrance, "I'm comin' in, aren't I? It's that stupid bleedin' handle on the door. You wanna get it fixed!" shocks both Frank and the audience in her apparent ignorance of social conventions surrounding admission to a university lecturer's office. Her use of slang and contractions of words suggests that she belongs to the working class rather than to Frank's educated class. Her tone of exasperation is humorous in her lack of awareness of the power relations in this situation. Indeed, Frank's "slightly confused" facial expression signal that they have different perceptions of this social situation. Furthermore, there is a lack of adjacency pairing in the interchange:

Frank: You are?
Rita: What am I?
Frank: Pardon?
Rita: What?

This demonstrates a disjunction between Frank's understanding of social etiquette and Rita's understanding of question formation. Frank is further unnerved by Rita's casual commentary on the "nice picture": "Look at those tits". His unease is shown in his use of fillers and pause, "Erm - yes, I suppose it is - nice…." Rita's language register, coarse language and behaviour all signal that she does not belong in a formal academic setting. However, humour is created at her apparent lack of awareness of her non-belonging in this setting. Yet, the audience does not laugh at her in contempt, but is rather charmed by her individuality in a setting that often demands pompous conformity to social norms. It is clear that Rita's presence in this setting will challenge Frank's expectations and may potentially enrich him. There is simultaneously a suggestion that Rita may face many barriers if she desires to belong in this academic setting.

Extract Two: Act 2 Scene 6 (pp.68-69)

By this stage of the play, Rita has chosen to take steps to belong in the academic world. It is clear that Rita's perception of belonging has modified since the beginning of the play. She seems to believe that external items have changed the locus of her belonging, reorienting her from the working class family to a sophisticated university lifestyle. She believes she can identify the marks of "brilliant," "witty" and "profound" literature in Frank's work. However, Frank's allusion to "a little Gothic number called Frankenstein" suggests a different perception of his work. He believes he has created a monster in Rita's views on literature, sarcastically saying, "you recognise the hallmark of literature now, don't you?" When Frank rips his poetry and throws it in the air, he dramatically signals his rejection of Rita's adopted views of belonging in the company of "nineteenth-century traditions of- of like wit an' classical allusion." As she reacts to his expression of disgust, her short sentence, "I don't need you" demonstrates her assertion of her own independence from him, ironically by conforming to the expectations of others. She asserts, "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." This accumulation of items imparts a sense of her triumph in her achievement, succeeding in belonging to a university students' world. Yet, the audience is able to apprehend, along with Frank, that these items are merely superficial tokens that do not necessarily denote true liberation or class. Frank's use of repetition, "Have you come all this way for so very, very little?" conveys his disappointment in her lack of awakening to the reality of the pretensions of the academic world to which he belongs. However, Rita points out to him that their perceptions of belonging are different because of their different social and personal contexts: "It's little to you who squanders every opportunity and mocks and takes it for granted." He perceives that her new-found belonging is based on a false identity, sarcastically listing the canonic writers' names that she might choose to call herself: "Virginia? […] Or Charlotte? Or Jane? Or Emily?" Thus, both Frank and Rita have changed their perceptions of belonging, which impacts on their relationship.

Analysing the extended response paragraphs:

  • Label the ideas about belonging discussed.
  • Circle techniques discussed.
  • Underline examples of integration of quotations (making the quote part of the sentence).
  • Write a reflection analysing what you can do to make your extended response paragraph writing more successful. What have you learned from deconstructing these extended response paragraphs?

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Educating Rita and the belonging prescription statements

After your study in class of key scenes from Educating Rita, you will need to decide which scenes you might discuss in an extended response. The scenes that you choose may vary, depending on what the question asks. Extended response questions often draw on the prescriptions rubric statements.

To help you prepare for any possible extended response question, consider which scene you would choose to discuss for each of the prescription statements, using the table below.

Rubric Statement Summary of how this idea is explored in the play as a whole 1st scene 2nd scene 3rd scene
Perceptions of belonging, or not belonging, vary.        
Perceptions of belonging are shaped within personal, cultural, historical and social contexts.        
A sense of belonging can emerge from the connections made with people, places, groups, communities and the larger world.        
Belonging is related to identity, relationships, acceptance and understanding.        
An individual has the potential to enrich or challenge a community or group.        
Attitudes to belonging can be modified over time.        
Texts may also reflect choices not to belong.        
Texts may represent barriers which prevent belonging.        
Texts may create a sense of belonging to, or exclusion from, the text and the world it represents.        
Perspectives are given voice or are absent from a text. This shapes our sense of belonging to or exclusion from the text.        
The concept of belonging is conveyed through the representations of people, relationships, ideas, places, events, and societies that they encounter.        
There are underlying assumptions which shape the representations of people, relationships, ideas, places, events, and societies.        
The responder's perception of the world is modified through studying texts.        
Studying belonging broadens and deepens the responder's understanding of themselves and the world.        
There are connections between and among texts in their representation of the concept of belonging.        

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