Educating Rita


Willy Russell

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Educating Rita: Act Two, Scene Four Summary & Analysis

Rita enters Frank’s office and apologizes for being late, saying that she lost track of time because she was talking about Shakespeare with her friends. Turning to leave, she suggests that she’s too late to make the session worthwhile and promises to be on time next week. However, Frank asks her to sit down. When she does, he tells her he recently called the hairdresser’s shop and learned she no longer works there. She confirms this, informing him that she works in a bistro now. Hurt that she never told him, Frank says, “It struck me that there was a time when you told me everything.” Pouring himself a drink, he asks if Mr. Tyson is one of her customers at the restaurant, where she claims to have conversations that are much more stimulating than the ones she ever had at the hairdresser’s. 
Yet again, Frank’s jealousy regarding Rita’s newfound independence and friends comes to the forefront of Educating Rita. Indeed, his envy is obvious when he asks if Tiger (Mr. Tyson) visits her at the bistro. At this point in the play, the audience understands that Frank and Rita’s relationship has shifted dramatically. Rita has grown less interested in attending Frank’s tutoring sessions (seen by her tardiness and newfound aloofness), and Frank has become unable to contain his feelings of resentment about her new life and identity. 
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“Look,” Rita says, “for your information I do find Tiger fascinatin’, like I find a lot of the people I mix with fascinating.” With his back turned to her, Frank says, “Perhaps—perhaps you don’t want to waste your time coming here any more?” This annoys Rita, who tells him not to be stupid. After a moment of silence, she announces that she has to leave because she and Trish are going to a production of The Seagull. Again, Frank tells her she can stop coming to these sessions. Sipping his drink, he says, “You really don’t have to put in the odd appearance out of sentimentality.”
Anything positive Rita has to say about her friends—especially Tiger, of whom Frank is blatantly envious—only makes Frank feel unimportant, once again highlighting his low self-esteem. In suggesting that she doesn’t have to “put in the odd appearance out of sentimentality,” Frank attempts to make Rita feel guilty for abandoning him. Although he used to accept the fact that she would one day leave him behind, now his attachment to her causes him to act out of resentment and scorn.
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In response to Frank’s suggestion that she can stop coming, Rita says, “If you could stop pouring that junk down your throat in the hope that it’ll make you feel like a poet you might be able to talk about things that matter instead of where I do or do not work, an’ then it might be worth comin’ here.” Clearly offended, Frank asks Rita if she really thinks she’s “capable of recognising what does or does not matter,” and she says, “I understand literary criticism, Frank. When I come here that’s what we’re supposed to be dealing with.” After looking at her for a moment, he gives her two thin books and says, “You want literary criticism? I want an essay on that lot by next week. No sentimentality, no subjectivity. Just pure criticism. A critical assessment of a lesser-known English poet. Me.”
Finally, Rita acknowledges that it is no longer “worth” coming to Frank’s office for tutoring, as all he ever wants to talk about now is her personal life. Once again, Rita tries to establish the appropriate boundaries in their mentor-pupil relationship, this time reminding him that they’re “supposed to be dealing with” literary criticism, not her private affairs. In turn, Russell portrays mentorship relationships as quite volatile, illustrating that romantic interest can quickly destabilize an otherwise productive learning environment. In addition, by assigning Rita an essay on his own work, it seems that Frank is attempting to force Rita to pay attention to him.
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