Educating Rita Willy Russell and the book Piggybook by Anthony Browne
Moving into the world means confronting society. By doing this it involves change both physically, mentally and challenges through obstacles. This is shown in the play “Educating Rita” Willy Russell and the book “Piggybook” by Anthony Browne. Both these texts engage on confronting society and going higher in the working class world. Rita is a twenty-six year old hairdresser from Liverpool who has decided to get a higher education. Not the sort of education that would get her just a better job, but an education that would open up for her a whole new working- class world, a liberal education.
Rita wants to be a different person, and live an altogether different sort of life than she has been living so far. She enrolls in the Open University, a government program that allows non-traditional students to get the kind of higher education that used to be reserved more or less for the offspring of the upper classes. “Educating Rita” describes the trials and transformations that the young hairdresser has to go through to develop from a person with hardly any formal schooling at all into a student who passes her university exams with ease and distinction.
Frank Bryant is a disappointed intellectual who has no real use anymore for literature, culture, or the life of the mind. Frank accepted the offer to be Rita’s tutor in order to support his drinking habit. Introducing working people in particular to the world of higher education seems utterly pointless to him. He himself would much rather go to a pub than spend the evening instructing some disadvantaged student. From Act one, Scene one and two, it is clear that Rita faces several obstacles in her ordinary world. Firstly, her ordinary world strips her of her individuality and prevents her from becoming educated.
This is because individuals in her ordinary world are tough from an early age not to take schooling seriously as it has already been determined that they will work in the working class world and start a family. In act one Scene one Rita’s journey of moving between worlds is initiated by her determination to discover herself. “see, I don’t wanna baby yet. See I wanna discover myself first” PG 12. Rita tells her teacher Frank that she wants to discover all these things she didn’t know she had and explore her skills before she ends up settling down and having kids with her husband Denny.
Rita confronts the educated society by making her entrance into Franks office easier. She does this by bringing oil to her lesson and oiling the door to make it easier to open. “Rita is standing in the door way holding a small can of oil. ” This is also Rita overcoming a physical obstacle of moving higher into the working class world. “A room on the first floor of a Victorian built university in the North of England. ” The setting is symbolic as it reflects the idea that she wants to leave her working class for a higher class. It is also symbolic of the new world she wants to enter and gain confidence in.
This is reinforced in Act one, Scene two when she says “I’m gunna have a room like this one day”. Rita also had a chance to move up into the upper class world as she was invited to franks house for dinner with a few other upper working class individuals but somehow lost her self confidence as she go to Franks front door, so she turned away and went to the pub where her husband and family where. Rita also left because she saw everyone there and she knew she would not fit in with the others, for example, she told frank that she brought the wrong wine.
Frank then told her “you were invited because I wished to have your company and if you cant believe that then I suggest you stop visiting me and start visiting an analyst who can cope with your paranoia” Page 45. By Frank confronting Rita, it shows that he sees her differences as a positive, whereas Rita hates and wants to change. * * * The picture book ‘Piggybook’ by Anthony Browne is also a book about moving into the real world and confronting society. Mrs Piggott was sick of cleaning, cooking and making beds for her husband and her 2 boys, she decided it was time to go into the real world and discover what she had been missing.
On the first page, it introduces Mr Piggott and the two sons, however, Mrs Piggott was not included. This shows that Mrs Piggott was not acknowledged by the 2 boys and Mr Piggott. It also shows that Mrs Piggott was trapped inside her house, she didn’t have a outside life. Throughout this book, illustrations of Mrs Piggott were very dull and dark and her face wasn’t showing emphasising that she was not acknowledged by the three boys. Mrs Piggott also showed that she had some sort of depression, she wasn’t happy with the 3 boys treating her like a slave. “Hurry up with the breakfast dear” “Hurry up with the breakfast mum”.
When Mrs Piggott left the 3 boys a note that said “you are pigs” there was a change. Illustrations of the 3 boys, the color was dark, dull and sad. Also, throughout the illustrations everything started turning into pigs emphasizing the 3 boys as the 3 little pigs. Mrs Piggott had entered a new world where she was acknowledged for her existence. On page 22, this illustration shows that Mrs Piggott is happy, she is standing with her arm on her hip while Mr Piggott and the two boys are on their hands and knees begging for their mother/ wife back. This show that Mrs Piggott has great power over the 3 begging boys.
After Mrs Piggott accepted the 3 boys back, the family together raised in the working class world by all helping each other throughout the house, acknowledging Mrs Piggott and giving Mrs Piggott the time she deserves to herself. * * * The first scene quickly establishes Franks dissatisfaction with his life. The whisky secreted in a book case, points to a drinking problem. At the end of the scene, Frank confesses to Rita that he is “an appalling teacher” of appalling students”. Although Frank is witty, kind and talented, his personal life is unsatisfactory and he drinks to escape his negative emotions.
Frank is profoundly uncomfortable with Rita’s transformation after the summer school. He revels flashes of jealous when she talks of going to France with Tyson and others, saying there’s no point in working towards an essay if she is likely to “fall in love” and go away. Rita is upset that she left the hairdressing and started working in the bistro without telling frank. This tells Frank that he has lost the importance he once had in Rita’s life and is very saddened by this. “it struck me when there was a time you told me everything” page 64. Rita’s attitude changes through-out he course of the play. She finds him “dead clever” and “a crazy piss artist” as first, and places great faith in his ability to teach her “everything”.
She is impressed that he has written poetry, asking him “were you a famous poet? ”. But as she becomes more confident in her new world, she grows increasingly critical of the way Frank wastes his talents, drinking his like and opportunities away. “if you 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” Rita tells Frank. * Unlike Rita, Frank makes no effort to confront his educated society this is symbolized by the face that he never moves outside of his environment; he never opens the windows. It is not till the very end of the play that he confronts his meaningless existence in the educated word. For example, Rita tries opening the window to get fresh air but the window was stuck emphasizing that Frank doesn’t like to go outside his environment or comfort zone. Rita tries to convince Frank to do their tutorial on the lawn.
Her confidence has been greatly augmented by the experience of summer school and she is not in awe of the ‘real’ students as she once was. Frank refuses, being unable to change his accustomed routines and environment, she suggests opening the window. It will not budge not having been open for years. This is an effective symbol for Frank’s life. “I’m not surprised dear, It hasn’t been opened for generations” Page 58. This is an effective symbol for Frank’s life. Although disappointed and frustrated by his world, he is incapable of moving out of it until events force him to change.
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