The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

by George Ryga

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Please detail the teacher's significance in the drama, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

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Miss Donahue is shown to be like most members of White society towards Native American society in the drama.  At best, she is unable to understand the challenges and full dimensions of Native American culture.  In this, she is ineffective in being able to help Native American children out.  At worst, she is representative of the White culture's systematic degradation and oppression of Native American culture.  Little is known of Miss Donahue save what it shown at the trial.  She does not give a supportive view of Rita Joe.  Instead, she uses the trial to label Rita as a poor student, incapable of focus and of finding success in the classroom setting. She is shown to be unable to handle the challenge of education Native American youth in a world dominated by the White culture.  Miss Donahue's frustration at Rita Joe being unable to focus on Wordsworth is a part of this, reflecting how education on the reservation is not culturally relevant, but rather emotionally draining for the students.  Miss Donahue's significance is that she represents how the institutional configuration for Native Americans is one that is meant to deaden or silence any hopes or opportunities for the future that might exist.

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