A young and poor Indigenous woman, Rita Joe is the protagonist of the play. She comes to the city from the reservation where she grew up, seeking a better life. Rita loves her father, sister and Jaimie Paul, and she calls upon memories of her loved one when she is in difficult situations. Rita Joe represents the indigenous person in a colonized nation: demonized, degraded, and misunderstood. Rita loses her job and falls into a series of arrests for various crimes. Her story is consistently doubted by those in power. At the end of the play, Rita is killed.
Jaimie Paul is a young Indigenous man and lifelong friend of Rita Joe. He comes to the city with high hopes, but he eventually loses his job and takes to drinking. He lives in poverty, but self-respect keeps him from accepting charity. He fights back against marginalization and is angered by the discrimination he experiences. Jaimie Paul demands equal opportunities to those enjoyed by white men, but he too is marginalized and his voice is suppressed in the same way as Rita Joe's. He dies while trying to save Rita's life.
David Joe is Rita's father. He is a man who accepts the various aspects of colonization easily. He moves to the reservation they are given, and also tries to persuade Rita Joe to return to the reservation, as he knows the dangers of being alone in the city. He never rebels against the colonizers and accepts all the injustices he faces in silence. He is, as Jaimie Paul describes him, "the kind of Indian a white man likes."
The Magistrate is the person who hears Rita Joe's case. He is not given a name, which shows that he is not one person, but rather represents the whole of the law-giving body in a colonized nation. When Rita Joe first appears before him in court, he expresses his will to be just and fair to her, but he does not understand or relate to her, making him distrust her and in turn making him give her an unjust sentence more than once.
Father Andrew is a priest who works among the Indigenous people on the reservation. He visits Rita Joe in jail, and there tries to get a confession out of her. He keeps trying to thrust Christianity onto the natives. Even at the end, when Rita Joe and Jaimie Paul die, he barges into the funeral to recite his prayers. He represents the role of religion in the process of colonization.
Miss Donohue is Rita Joe's school teacher. She is a white woman and is not able to understand Rita Joe. She finds Rita a trying student when young. She appears in court as a witness for Rita Joe, but she doesn't have much of an opinion about her and believes that she is a prostitute.
The singer is an alter ego of Rita Joe. She acts as a kind of a chorus to the play, trying to fill the gaps in the play. The singer is used to portray the native perspective of things. She often sings the line, "God was gonna have a laugh // An' gave me a job in the city!", which summarizes the whole of the play.
The Ecstasy of Rita Joe Questions and Answers
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