The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

The Ecstasy of Rita Joe Literary Elements


Drama, Tragedy



Setting and Context

mid-1960s, an unidentified city in British Columbia modeled after Vancouver

Narrator and Point of View

Tone and Mood

Dark and Pessimistic

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonists: Rita Joe, Jaimie Paul Antagonist: Mr. Homer, the Magistrate, white society

Major Conflict

The major conflict of the play emerges between Rita Joe and the people in her life who have condemned her to her fate. These individuals include the Magistrate, the Priest, and the Teacher. A larger conflict emerges between Indigenous peoples and the white government which has oppressed them and kept them in poverty for generations.


The climax of the play comes with Rita's sentencing and death.


Rita's death is foreshadowed by the repeated presence of the Murderers on stage.


At the end of the play, Eileen silences white mourners in order to give her final line: "When Rita Joe first come to the city, she told me... The cement made her feet hurt" (126). This is an understated way to summarize Rita's life and struggles in the city.


There are many allusions to the Christian bible. The Priest alludes to Mary Magdalene, the prostitute who Jesus saved by a well. "Ecstasy" in the title of the play is an allusion to the ecstasy that Christian martyrs are said to experience in the Christian tradition. It is a critique of Christianity, which has historically been used to oppress and silence Indigenous groups.


The imagery of a storm, built by lighting and sound effects, helps set the scene for Rita's memory of berry picking with her sister.


In the altercation with Mr. Homer, Jaimie and the Young Indian Men are laughing even though they are angry. Jaimie mocks Mr. Homer as a means of signifying rage at his hypocrisy and infantilization of them. Eventually, this rage bubbles to the surface.


Parallels are built between Rita and Jaimie's experiences in the city, as both struggle with unemployment and repeated arrests.


Use of Dramatic Devices

Mimed eating, drinking, and smoking. Lighting choices indicate a shift from actual time to memory,