The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

The Ecstasy of Rita Joe Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Sky (Symbol)

The characters often look up at the sky, particularly when there is an airplane passing overhead. Rita and Jaimie often cope with hardship by looking at the sky and comparing it with the way the sky looked back home. The similarities they find between the sky over the city and that over their home gives them hope. The sky is a symbol of the universality of human experience. It is a helpful reminder of the constant under which every human lives their life.

Laughter (Motif)

Laughter is a motif that emerges often in the play. It is used by people in a position of power against Rita Joe, as when the policeman laughs when she gives her testimony. But it is not a weapon that belongs only to them. Rita uses laughter as a device through which she might address an unfair world, and her humor keeps her strong in situations that might otherwise be disheartening. Jaimie also uses laughter as a weapon, but it is a double-edged sword, as his laughter makes it so his rage at his mistreatment is overlooked.

Drunkenness (Motif)

As Jaimie's experience in the city gets bleaker, he begins to be shown drinking or acting drunk. Jaimie's drunkenness is a response to the world around him, and it often encourages him to speak his mind, as with the altercation with Mr. Homer. Mr. Homer uses his inebriated behavior against him and paints his habit as a measure of his worth, a quality of his rather than a condition he experiences.

Dragonfly (Allegory)

As they say goodbye, David Joe tells Jaimie and Rita a story of watching a dragonfly hatch. The story is an allegory for struggle: the dragonfly had to break the oppressive structure that formed it in order to find its wings and fly away. It is an allegory for David Joe's political hopes that Indigenous peoples might be able to eventually break out of their subordinate position in society. It is also a metaphor for David's emotional process at this time, as he accepts that his daughter will be staying in the city.

Food (Symbol)

Food emerges as a symbol in the play. During her trial, Rita is so hungry that she is physically unwell. This state of being is contrasted with her memories that involve food: receiving (or denying) food from Mr. Homer and foraging with berries with her sister. Food is a symbol of sustenance and resources, and Rita's diminishing access to food depicts how her financial security deteriorates over the course of her life.