The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is a two-act play by Canadian playwright George Ryga. It follows the life of a young Native woman, Rita Joe, who finds herself displaced and unaccepted by both indigenous people and whites. Two of the most significant themes within the play are colonization and the marginalization of indigenous peoples in Canada. Here, I will take a look at the theme of marginalization.
Marginalization takes place at many levels in the life of the characters, especially the heroine, Rita Joe. The community is prejudiced, and the native people are believed to be criminals, drunks, or prostitutes. They aren’t offered the same opportunities as white people and are unable to find decent jobs. This marginalization can be seen in the church, the neighborhood, the school, the workplace, the social center, the police station, and the court.
Rita Joe finds herself in court after she is falsely charged with working as a prostitute by two policemen. Once in court, she faces further prejudice from the magistrate:
Who is she? Can she speak English? (p.16)
The magistrate, like other white people, believes the native people are criminals, drunks, or prostitutes. Rita Joe isn’t given the opportunity to defend herself. She is later raped and murdered.