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English Literature



There are only two characters in the play, but we also hear about other people.


What we know about Rita:

  • she smokes

  • her real name is Susan

  • she is a hairdresser

  • she is twenty six

  • she is married and her husband, Denny, wants them to have a baby - she pretends that she has come off the pill, but he finds out

  • Denny doesn’t like her signing up for the Open University

  • she chooses the Open University over her husband

  • it is clear at the end of the play that she feels empowered to make her own decisions about her life

It is important to recognise the courage that it takes for Rita to start studying. She is turning against her husband and her way of life. She knows that she wants more.

At first Rita connects her understanding of the texts to her understanding of real life. She rejects Forster because he said he was not talking about the poor in Howard’s End. For her, that meant that he couldn’t be bothered with them, rather than that it was not his focus.

She has to learn the ideas behind literature. When she begins to do so, she annoys Frank by first spouting the conventional view about DH Lawrence and then seeming artificial in her almost obsessive pursuit of culture.

However, education changes Rita and by the end of the play she has a heightened awareness and knowledge but she has also regained her sense of perspective.

It is perhaps Trish’s attempted suicide that has made the difference, but we like Rita and we suspect that she would have reached that point one way or another. Does she love Frank? That is not clear but it is clear that she cares about him – demonstrated, for instance, by her bringing the costly engraved pen back from London for him.



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