Educating Rita

Educating Rita Act One, Scene Seven Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
While Frank is grading papers, Rita enters the office holding a suitcase. Apparently, Rita broke up with Denny, so now she’s moving in with her mother. “He said either I stop comin’ here an’ come off the pill or I could get out altogether,” she tells Frank. In light of this, she decided to leave and continue her education. After a moment, Rita asks Frank how her Macbeth essay was, and though he thinks they shouldn’t bother working today, she presses him to deliver his honest feedback. “Was it rubbish?” she asks. “No,” he answers. “Not rubbish.” When Rita asks if it’s overly sentimental, he says, “No no. It’s far too honest for that. It’s almost—erm—moving. But in terms of what you’re asking me to teach you of passing exams…In those terms it’s worthless. It shouldn’t be, but it is; in its own terms it’s—it’s wonderful.”
It’s unsurprising that Rita has decided to pursue an education over staying with Denny, considering the renewed sense of determination she developed on Saturday night after watching her mother wallow in her own discontent without trying to make a change. When she turns to Frank to help her continue her journey toward academic success, though, she discovers that he’s suddenly hesitant to help her become somebody else entirely. Indeed, he finds her essay about Macbeth “moving,” emphasizing how “wonderful” it is despite the fact that it doesn’t adhere to the expectations or standards that are normally used to measure academic success.
Themes
Social Class and Identity Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
Institutionalized Education vs. Experiential Education Theme Icon
Self-Worth Theme Icon
Having heard Frank say that her Macbeth essay wouldn’t pass an exam, Rita decides that the piece is, indeed, “worthless.” As such, she asks Frank to tell her how to write a better response, but he confesses that he’s reluctant to do so because he doesn’t know if he wants to teach her, since what she already has is “valuable.” She protests this idea, but he pushes on, saying, “But, don’t you see, if you’re going to write this sort of thing—to pass examinations, you’re going to have to suppress…perhaps even abandon your uniqueness. I’m going to have to change you.” This, Rita says, is the point. “Don’t you realize, I want to change!” she insists. Telling Frank to throw her essay into the garbage, she sits down determined to write a new one.
In this moment, Russell shows that Frank doesn’t want Rita to change. After all, not only is he skeptical of a standard education, but he also has strong feelings for Rita and thus doesn’t want her to erase herself in the process of becoming an intellectual. He tries to tell her that securing an education doesn’t have to mean completely blotting out her unique individuality, which he believes is “valuable.” While this is certainly the case, it’s also worth keeping in mind that intellectual and personal growth often comes along with periods of radical change. This, it seems, is simply part of Rita’s journey as a self-empowered person seeking to improve upon herself. Although Frank has good intentions, his hesitancy to help her succeed threatens to interfere with her otherwise-worthwhile pursuit.
Themes
Social Class and Identity Theme Icon
Mentorship Theme Icon
Institutionalized Education vs. Experiential Education Theme Icon
Self-Worth Theme Icon