The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is a lyric documentary about a young Indian girl who comes to the city only to die on Skid Row, a victim of the white man’s violence and paternalism. The Ecstasy of Rita Joe describes the extreme brutality of life in the city, as experienced by a young native woman. It is a deliberate reminder that native Canadians enjoy much less than full participation in their vaunted social, educational, and justice systems.
How Rita Joe faces the problem in a desolate world of prostitution and drug addiction in the hope of finding a better life in the city relate to the historical aspect of the work's timing; this was one of the first works about Native Canadians mounted on a stage and taken seriously.
The background of Rita Joe who ever stayed in reservation has a big impact to her psychological development. The course of mental processes is automatically regulated by the "pleasure-pain principle"; and pain is thus is some way related to an increase of excitation and pleasure to a decrease. In the course of development the original pleasure principle undergoes a modification with reference to the external world, giving place to the "reality-principle," whereby the mental apparatus learns to postpone the pleasure of satisfaction and to tolerate temporarily feelings of pain.
According to the most recent psychoanalytic views, the mental apparatus is composed of an "id," which is the reservoir of the instinctive impulses, of an "ego," which is the most superficial portion of the id and one which is modified by the influence of the external world, and of a "super-ego," which develops out of the id, dominates the ego and represents the inhibitions of instinct characteristic of man (Ernest Jones, Papers on Psycho-Analysis (1923)). It is a basic of paternalism culture which treats and placed woman as the subject of sexual pleasure.
Rita Joe with little schooling and poor English, she cannot support herself and becomes entrapped in prostitution. Being entrapped in prostitution made her desolate and of course it disturbs her psychological condition. In the circumstance of asking for fair law, the violence of white culture is to blame, to be sure, but so is the patriarchy of Native culture. Over expectation leads her ambition of being a success in the city turns into desolate and guilty feeling.
Someone who has a bad experience in the past give a strong influence in his or her emotional condition, and it probably appears in the future when something happen and closely relate to the memories of that bad experience. Rita Joe with her bad experience in desolate world of prostitution and drug addiction, made her psychological condition dropped. It often appears and disturbs her in the circumstance of asking for the fair law in a court of justice.
Several attitudes or actions related to Rita Joe’s life in George Ryga’s The Ecstasy of Rita Joe might appear as the effects of white man’s violence and paternalism. In some cases it can create generosity or hope to a better life. But in the novel it can caused Rita Joe to feel deep anxiety and depression. It leads her to the world of prostitution and drug addiction as a way for a better life. “Loss is the phenomenal state we experience when these types of events occur; it is the disquiet that, over time, becomes the source not only of anxiety and depression but also of hope and generosity” (
Rita Joe was a landmark in more ways than one. It was - and remains - a play for all seasons and for all peoples. It created controversy about the co-opting of minority voices, by a majority culture in