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The main theme in "Educating Rita" is the theme of identity. Rita is initially a narrow minded, loud and socially inept Liverpudlian trapped by her working class life. Rita believes that by studying and gaining worldly knowledge she can change her circumstances, freeing herself from the life she lives.
Rita's ultimate goal is to change classes; she doesn't want to be dubbed 'middle class,' and enrolls in an Open University course as a result. She thinks that knowing what books to read and which clothes to wear will give her access to her chosen social strata. This change affects her both positively and negatively throughout the course of the play.
Education (another theme) brings about the changes in Rita, both good and bad, but eventually Rita achieves a happy balance in her life.
For comedic relief, we see a number of interaction between Rita and her tutor (Frank) that are reminiscent of 'Pygmalion' and 'My Fair Lady.' Frank is disenchanted, Rita is young and vivacious. His first response to her is seen in a remark to another teacher, "Why a grown adult wants to come to this place after putting in a hard day's work is totally beyond me."
His first response to Rita is, "Why didn't you walk in here twenty years ago?"
Their relationship is filled with humor, and ironically moments of Frank feeling guilty. There's irony to be found in the fact that he is helping Rita to become the kind of person he really doesn't like anymore. Their interactions are funny, sweet, and often rather sad, but the comedic angle is necessary to lighten the plays major theme.