The Ecstasy of Rita Joe

by George Ryga

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What are some of the implications of George Ryga's play's title: The Ecstasy of Rita Joe?

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Ecstasy suggests an intensification of emotion so powerful as to produce a trancelike dissociation from all but the single overpowering feeling: an ecstasy of rage, grief, love. (Random House Dictionary)

In light of the applications of the word "ecstasy" as discussed by Random House Dictionary, Ryga's title, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, implies the extremeity of Rita's emotions. From her first encounter with the law and courts when she first moves off the reservation, or "reserve" as it is termed in Canada, to her final dismissal by an unsympathetic judge, Rita has fallen prey to rules and standards that she knows nothing about and to necessity that she was ill-prepared for: 

The first time I tried to go home i was picked up by some men who gave me five dollars. An' then they arrested me. ... It wasn't true what they said, but nobody'd believe me .... (Rita)

you gravitate to the slums and skid rows and the shanty-town fringes. (Magistrate to Rita)

Another implication of the title is the irony between the definition of "ecstasy" as overwhelming emotion, often of delight or poetic inspiration, and Rita's ultimate end as a murder victim. There is also irony between poetic inspiration and the kind of inspiration Rita must have had as she met her death by murder: she realized the deathlike reality of interactions between a dominant and a marginalized, victimized culture. All Rita wanted when she left the reservation was a job, what she got was the discovery of marginalization, the secret of which went with her to her grave.

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