Rita’s influence over Frank causes him to adopt a contrasting character to his former self. This is partly due to the fact that their relationship advances to various levels during the course of the play. The play starts off with Frank playing the role of a teacher and Rita a student. However as the play proceeds we realise that it does not conclude in the same fashion. At the very beginning of the play when Rita and Frank meet for the first time their relationship is very formal.
During act one scene one Rita is the obvious student; – she’s receptive, alert and equipped with an eager mind very similar to that of a child, this gives us the impression that she is a good student. However towards the end Rita has grown up to an extent that she refers to herself as “… educated… ” Although Frank has low self-esteem he proves to be a good teacher by educating her to an extent where Rita herself is able to discover the meaning of ‘Howard’s End’ by herself: “Criticism is never subjective… criticism must be supported by reference to established literary critique”
The characters change to such an extent that, Frank goes from correcting Rita in criticism to being accused by Rita of “being subjective”. From this we see that Frank has come to a condition where he has changed his former self so much to an extent where he contradicts his past ideas. This is shown when he adapts Rita’s way of explaining assonance as “getting the rhyme wrong”. Drinking is a significant part in Frank’s life, however during the course of the play Rita attempts to discourage and ultimately reform him.
This influence creates either a positive or negative effect depending on the state of their relationship. While the characters are on good terms with each other Frank seems to be mainly sober; Although this positive effect is reversed when they’re relationship is troublesome; for instance Frank is not pleased that Rita is giving up her unique way of writing to become otherwise in the next scene we see in what state Frank is in he’s very drunk and has ruined one of his lecturers. Rita endeavours to tempt Frank with the excuse that he’s “got so much goin'” for him.
To this Frank replies: “It is indeed because I have ‘so much goin’ for me’ that I do it. ” This illustrates Frank’s frustration with his own life; even Rita sees that this frustration and the drinking is affecting other parts in his life including his poetry. Rita finds that his poetry is brilliant and she is very concerned that Frank is sober enough to her opinions. Rita realises that Frank’s drinking habits are hindering him from fulfilling his capabilities as a poet and a teacher.
If you could stop pouring that junk down your throat in hope that it’ll make you feel like a poet you might be able to talk about things that matter” Near the end both characters acknowledge that Rita is Frank’s only influence although at the beginning Frank laughs at the idea of Rita reforming him. Frank does not want to watch Rita leave him in “appalling sobriety” as he admits to her being his only source of influence. Frank’s drinking problems finally get him a sentence to Australia for two years this seems to be an equivalent of being ‘fired’.
Throughout the play Rita’s influence over Frank has been a source of both positive and negative occurrences. When Frank and Rita are on good terms, Rita’s influence sways towards a positive effect, however when Rita’s and Frank’s ideas differ, that same source of constructive advice is flipped and becomes an excuse to ruin circumstances to such a degree that they are worse off than before. This positive and negative influence appears to be intentional for example Rita warns Frank about drinking with the intension of him being liberated from alcohol.
However there is also another type of influence that Rita has over Frank that is not deliberate but involuntary and unacknowledged. This influence is nothing but the character of Rita herself. During their tutorials he teaches her many things such as the style of writing an essay and the meaning of literature. However during these periods Rita is not the only one who learns about literature. Frank learns a great deal about literature from Rita. Frank begins to take on Rita’s way of interpreting things.
While Rita herself begins to adopt Frank’s way of interpreting- hence a small character reversal, an example of this is the view, which both characters have towards the book ‘Ruby Fruit Jungle’. At the beginning Frank has a negative approach to pulp fiction. “Devouring pulp fiction is not being well read. ” Rita’s initial view regarding this book was that it was “fantastic” however towards the end she describes it differently. “Of its type it’s quite interesting. But it’s hardly excellence. ”
Frank’s final opinion regarding this book is that it’s “excellent. ” This can be interpreted as the interchanging of characteristics of the two roles. This interchanging of characteristics results in two people who are more aware of each other’s approach to literature. The author, Willy Russell uses this to his advantage to develop both characters further. The intentional and obvious reform, for example Rita’s influence to improve Frank’s drinking habits, does change in accordance with their relationship.
For example when Frank begins to drink it is usually when his and Rita’s relationship isn’t going very smoothly, although when they get along he’s mostly sober. The unacknowledged influence is not subject to change in accordance with their relationship, instead it becomes a permanent part of Frank’s character. This can be regarded as the most effective and the greatest influence that Rita had over Frank; as Frank begins to be more aware of Rita’s ideas his character is gradually influenced, resulting in a contrasting trait of his former self.