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Rita s sense of being a half

Not the sort of education that would get her just a better job or more pay, but an education that would open up for her a whole new 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, and mainly for male students at that.

Our School and History

In the course of telling this story, the film also suggests what the ultimate purpose of a liberal education may be. The story is presented in the form of a comedy, a comedy that revolves around the personal and pedagogical relationship between Rita and her main tutor, Dr.

Frank Bryant Michael Caine. Frank Bryant teaches comparative literature, and it is his job to prepare Rita for her exams. Unfortunately, Frank Bryant has lost all enthusiasm for his academic field and its related teaching duties. He loathes most of his regular students, and the main function of the rows of classical works that still fill the bookshelves in his office is to hide the whiskey bottles without which he is not able to get through the day and the semesters anymore.

When he teaches his regular classes he is frequently drunk, and in response to a student's complaint that students are not learning much about literature in Bryant's class, the burned-out teacher gruffly advises: What are you doing in here? Why don't you all go out and do something?

Why don't you go and make love--or something? Introducing working people in particular to the world of higher education seems utterly pointless to him. When he finds himself assigned as the primary tutor for Rita he remarks to a fellow-instructor: When Rita appears at Frank's office for their first tutorial session, however, the two take a sort of liking to each other. Rita is bright, vivacious, charming, and good looking to boot.

He is twice her age and looks somewhat disheveled like a "geriatric hippie," as Rita puts itbut he impresses his new student by his irreverent humor and easy-going manner.

Trying to deflate her respect for his seemingly impressive academic accomplishments, he says: I wish I could talk like that. Frank wants to know why Rita has "suddenly" decided to get an education. She has a secure job, after all, and there is no pressure on her to enroll in a program of higher education.

Our History

Rita answers that her desire is not sudden: I should have had a baby by now; everyone expects it. I'm sure me husband thinks I'm sterile. He was moanin' all the time, y' know, 'Come off the pill, let's have a baby. But I'm still on it. See, I don't wanna baby yet. I wanna discover myself first. Do you understand that?

He fears that too much of her original charming personality will be destroyed in the process. The comical paradox of the situation is that Rita desires exactly what Frank does not value anymore: The things that Frank appreciates these days, Rita already has in overabundance: While in the coming weeks and months he succeeds in teaching Rita how to read and analyze literature in a scholarly way, and to express her insights in well-argued essays, Frank never loses the nagging feeling that he is deforming Rita as much as he is educating her.

Rita' s progress in her academic education does not come easy. The main obstacles she faces come from her working class background and her husband Denny. Denny has very traditional ideas about the social role of a good woman. He does not only fail to support her educational efforts, but even obstructs them wherever he can. He feels--not without reason--that he is slowly losing control over his wife, and he bitterly accuses her of thinking that he and her family are "not good enough" for her anymore.

Rita s father sides with her husband. For one thing, he nastily chides her for not having produced any grandchildren for him. Indeed, almost everything in her environment seems to conspire to keep her where, according to conventional wisdom, she belongs. The smoldering marital crisis comes to a head when Denny discovers that Rita is still on the pill. In a rage he burns her papers and books, and eventually he confronts her with the ultimatum of either "packing in" her studies for good, or of being kicked out of her home and marriage.

Rita decides to continue with her education, but it takes all her strength and courage to cope with the consequences. Her scholarly work is still far from adequate, and she still feels like an inferior stranger among regular students and the academic crowd.

On the other hand she has already moved too far away from her old environment to be able to return to it. Once drawn into the orbit of such writers as Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekhov, she cannot get too excited anymore about such things as sampling rita s sense of being a half brands of rita s sense of being a half in the corner pub, or happily singing along with the tunes of the jukebox.

Having moved out of her old world, and not having arrived yet in a new one, Rita feels alone and at a loss. As she explains to Frank: An' I can't talk to the likes of them [the academic crowd], because I can't learn the language. Other students are beginning to respect and admire her opinions in literary matters.

And when Rita comes back from summer school in London, Frank finds that she has made much more progress than he had expected. Other teachers take an interest in her, and she has gained an independence of judgment that allows her to converse freely about topics that used to intimidate her by their strangeness and complexity. Nobody doubts that she will pass her exams, and most people would agree that Rita has achieved what she had set out to achieve: Yet, something is not right with what she has achieved.

While Rita revels in her accomplishments and newly found self-confidence, Frank is visibly unhappy with what Rita has turned into. When Frank, somewhat drunk, openly expresses his skepticism about the ultimate value of Rita' s new state of mind, however, she blows up at him: What you can't bear is that I am educated now.

What's up, Frank, don't y' like me now that the little girl's grown up, now that y' can no longer bounce me on daddy's knee an' watch me stare back in wide-eyed wonder at everything he has to say? I'm educated, I've got what you have an' y' don't like it because you'd rather see me as the peasant I once was.

I've got rita s sense of being a half room full of books. I know what clothes to wear, what wine to buy, what plays to see, what papers and books to read.

I can do without you. Have you come all this way for so very, very little? It's little to you who squanders every opportunity and mocks and takes it all for granted," Rita shoots back.

She is not about to see the culture disparaged for the attainment of which she has expended so much effort. But Frank continues to chide her: Found a better song to sing, have you? No--you have found a different song, that's all. And on your lips it's shrill and hollow and tuneless. Oh, Rita, Rita…" Rita, to be sure, has good reasons for being weary of Frank's remarks, for Frank has been deteriorating at almost the same rate as Rita progressed with her education. His bouts of drunkenness have increased in number and intensity, and he has displayed signs of a petty and immature jealousy as Rita became intellectually more independent and socially more curious about other people.

As with her ex-husband before, the issue of control has clearly rita s sense of being a half a problematic issue in Rita' s relationship with her teacher. Nevertheless, Frank's admonitions are more justified than Rita can see at the moment. And it is indeed the less than impeccable conduct of Frank that gives substance to the dim view that he takes of higher education. For Frank himself is a primary illustration for the fact that an academic education in itself may mean little or nothing.

Frank used to write and publish poetry. His work was well received, and a good number of readers still think highly of it. Rita and Trish praise it as witty, profound, and brilliant. But Frank has nothing but contempt for it: In his mind, education and culture are not expressions of a higher or deeper wisdom anymore, but pretentious exercises in futility.

In spite of the high regard in which official society seems to hold education and culture, he cannot find any compelling reasons to support them. He simply does not know anymore why they should be so important, or why they should be more esteemed than the working class culture from which Rita struggled to free herself. Their supposed value may in the end be nothing but a prejudice.

That is what he tried to tell Rita at the time when he suggested that she had better find another teacher for herself: Trish is an enthusiast of high culture.

When Rita first introduces herself to her as a possible room-mate, sounds of a Mahler symphony are blasting through the apartment, and Trish keeps exclaiming admiringly: But one day Rita finds Trish unconscious in their apartment: After Trish is brought back to life at the hospital, Rita asks her: But whenever the music or the poetry stopped, "there was just me. And that is not enough. The enthusiastic celebration of such things as classical music or poetry by itself did not really provide her with a genuine and fulfilling life.

In the midst of her educated companions and their cultured life she still felt disappointed and deprived. Rita rita s sense of being a half to learn at the end of the movie that the culture and education that she has acquired with the help of people like Frank and Trish does not necessarily amount to the rich new existence that she had hoped for when she enrolled in the Open University.

She has to understand that the life of cultured people may not be a real life at all, but rather a sort of substitute life--a series of preoccupations and activities without any deeper or meaningful purpose. Rita' s over-all education, in other words, consists of two parts. The first part is the learning of all the things that cultured people are expected to be in command of: The second part is recognizing that all this may mean little in itself, that a learned academic may essentially be as lost or impoverished a person as anyone without any formal schooling.