The Power to Make Choices. Education in "Educating Rita" by Willy Russell

Term Paper, 2011

10 Pages, Grade: 3,0

Karo Kant (Author)


1 Introduction

Surrounded by traditions and habits of mind and action, working-class people have never received the chance to realize their potential. The working- class is defined by the relation of the status to manual occupations and limits economic standing as well as cultural ties and shared views (Roberts 3-4). The people's life, therefore, is prefabricated and follows strict traditions and habits. When Roberts says that "working-class women had learned when young that their place was in the home" and that "it was accepted by all that the ultimate resposibility for the home was theirs," (Roberts 125) it becomes obvious that, for example, the women's task is restricted to the kitchen work, the household, and to raising the children. Women know from their childhood that to fulfill these tasks is their destiny and because of missing possibilities and the argument of traditional habits, hardly lots of women and men are trying to escape from these circumstances. Traditions and conventions in this context can also be seen as external influences that restrains individuality. Being a member of the working-class means contribution and passing on a tradition.

Furthermore, working-class members feel a certain kind of repletion according to material needs which keeps them from changing the status quo. Status quo should be defined as the situation as it is now, or as it was before (Oxford 1500). Being different from somebody else, i. e. in this case from the community, is not accepted. A person always has to be a member of the group and act like one, whereas individuality is deprecated by the others (Kugler- Euerle 92). Since education is seen as useless and in contrast to the conventions, educated people distinguish themselves from the community as a whole.

The following will be focused on the term Education and the implication of escaping from the boundaries of working-class members to achieve independence and individuality. The convictions and the strength to put up with the strain of traditions and conventions will be exemplified through Educating Rita by Willy Russell.

2 The Working-Class

Working-class people do not define their lives through higher achievements or working towards any specific academic goals. They value their contribution to society, in which they feel secure and satisfied (Roberts 1). The people do not feel the need to reach a more materialistic status. After Britain became an industrial and urban society, the British labour movement (Berger, Broughton 109) achieved a certain statisfactory status quo, which they were not eager to change nor improve. The satisfaction derived from a change in the distribution of work, including a restructuring of industry. The number of manual jobs declined and many people migrated upwards to white collar jobs (Callinicos).

People started to feel pleased with the belongings they had gained, in opposition to their ancestors in the post-war periods, who had to fight for food and housing. It still exists as a significant cooperation and loyalty, but more likely according to family, local solidarity, and community instead of in relation to a mutual economical rise (Berger, Broughton 118). This repletion leads to a standard of living that is easy to satisfy. The community's working and living together is, perhaps, easily compromised by small talk and casual social settings.

As education does not play any role in a working-class community, as it will also be introduced in Educating Rit a, there is no chance or expectation even to develop individual skills. This fact implies an image of equality and feeling of being a group that evokes solidarity but not individual challenges at all. The result of this condition is emptiness and missing self-realization. In sum, education can function as a means to overcome emptiness, rebuild the lack of professional perspectives, and produce social advancement (Kugler-Euerle 91).

3 Education as a Means of Escape

Education would imply to opposing all upcoming boundaries and to break the expectation of being a nursing mother or a loving husband. The picture of traditional working-class family would collapse. Making the decision to receive education and to become acquainted with the world would also indicate that friends, neighbors, and especially the family will most probably interfere with any of the plans mentioned. As it was introduced above, education does not define working-class people. It is perceived that any way other than being obedient to conventions, in other words, being different, is not welcomed by the community. It becomes prominent that the choice of changing into an educated person in such a surrounding is demanding.

Consequently, education can be seen as the ability to reasonably self-determine oneself. This may include emancipation from external influences, gaining autonomy and freedom of thought as well as obtaining one's own moral decision-making skills (Ruge 87). People who are eager to gain knowledge, and want to go beyond customs and conventions, are able to proceed and escape through education.

The conventions mentioned in the beginning include external influences, which means influences that derive from happenings outside a place, an organization, a particular situation, and in this case, influences that come into being from outside the person itself, i. e. the family, friends, or the partner. But as it is said before, education involves personal decision-making and the freedom of thought and it, therefore, joins decisions made without any external influences, but simply made up by one's personal will. It can be assumed that one excludes the other.

While the community stays behind, surrounded by their status quo, the educated person escapes through a process of becoming self-aware and a development of intellectual examination to authenticity (Kugler-Euerle 91).

This authenticity distinguishes the educated person from the non-individualized working-class people.

4 Educating Rita

In the novel Educating Rita by Willy Russel the reader becomes familiarized with Rita, a hairdresser in her twenties who seeks her fortune through literature and hopes to reach a better life by means of education (Ruge 86). Rita's development to self-realization can be regarded as a cosmopolitan reception (Kugler-Euerle 91), in her case the utilization of literary studies to reflect upon her own personality. The studies are supposed to function as an escape from the monotony of the working-class and are meant to overcome the hopelessness of her life (Russell 119).

4.1 Overcoming Boundaries

Rita is most of all detained by her husband and her family's expectations. When her husband Denny finds out that she is on the pill (Russell 23), which means she does not want to have a baby yet, he gets really mad, tries to destroy her educational belongings and they even separate after significant fights and disagreements.


Excerpt out of 10 pages


The Power to Make Choices. Education in "Educating Rita" by Willy Russell
University of Kassel
Literaturwissenschaften - Education and Drama
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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power, make, choices, education, rita
Quote paper
Karo Kant (Author), 2011, The Power to Make Choices. Education in "Educating Rita" by Willy Russell, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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