Feb 8, 2019 in Analysis
Children’s Play Essay

Children’s Play

The play, Dry lips oughta move to Kapukasing, written by Tomson Highway, a Canadian writer, has greatly highlighted the role of children in the society. It also shows how they interact with changing political and social environments. The author chooses native rights to be the major theme of the play on which he focuses on encouraging native population to fight for their rights. However, this does not omit the important role of children in the society and its influence on their lives. The setting of the play is in a fictional native place in Canada. There are many fictional characters, but only one is female. In this play, the author attempts to focus on cultural collision. However, he describes the role of children in these changing social and political trends.

Dickie Bird, the main character in the play, deserves much attention. He suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome at birth. Depicting his birth in a bar, the author tries to highlight the situation surrounding his circumstances. However, he felt frustrated since he was not able to communicate his pain and express himself to others. The reason was the clash of cultures, and this had a great influence on the early life of this fictional character in the play. According to the play, Dickie Bird did not have language through which he could communicate his frustrations and pain.

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The author, Tomson Highway, involved this fictional character in his play labeled Dry lips oughta move to Kapukasing, as a form of symbolism and used him as a tool to advance his ideas. He suffered from mental retardation at birth, and, in such a way, the author tries to explain the confusion that arises from the clash of two cultures. It shows the extremes caused by the cultures, which brought misunderstanding among the natives. Dickie gets the description of a ‘product’ of two cultures, and the author uses him to show the audience a sense of insufficient identity. Dickie Bird is a character that cannot identify his origin and faces difficulties to find his biological father.  The play highlights the emotional turmoil that this character undergoes due to the situation, in which he finds himself. It is used as a form of symbolism to explain the result of interaction between two cultures. The author uses Dickie Bird to represent the plight faced by the children born and raised within this collision of cultures. It shows the extent of emotional breakdown people can reach because they cannot express themselves despite urge and strong desire. 

On the other hand, the play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is also focused on a native girl. The place of the children in our society advanced through the main character is drawn clearly in the play. The play tends to highlight an example of a victim of circumstances. The inspiration of this story is a life example of a youngster that was taken from his home to school. The school is noted to have been a residential school in northern Ontario. He is thought to have been found in a plane crash involving a helicopter and then taken to school. While in the air, the youngster could clearly see the tracks that lead to his native home. He is disturbed by this and desires to find his way back home. When he found an opportunity to follow this desire, he is said to have died on the way home. He died by the side of the tracks that were to lead him back to his community. 

However, in the play, the author opts to use a female character. The author uses numerous forms of art to explain the desire of a youngster to reunite with her identity and the serious implications that come with her desire to do this. Rita Joe left the reservation of his city only to die in a row that involved Whiteman violence with their attitudes to paternity of the native people. This play might be the most famous drama that attempts to explain the influence of two cultures on each other while focusing their attention on a young character that is at the center of this clash of two cultures. This play serves to arouse the consciousness of the natives and the Whites who attempt to eliminate the native culture. Moreover, the children were involved in the text to advance its themes and ideas. This play is in many ways similar to the one written by Tomson Highway where the main fictional characters are involved in the conflict between two warring factions and the major dominant social influence on the society. Despite both the plays having many themes, the children take much of the attention as the authors attempt to use them to advance the idea of the place of children in the society. The result is that it greatly implicates the lead character, Rita Joe. He attempts to use symbolism by explaining the case of a little girl. This draws the magistrate’s attention trying to win his sympathy, but his dedication to service makes him remain impartial, firm, and fair. Both the plays tend to explain the inner turmoil of the main characters that are children and their desire to reunite with their real identity.

Dickie Bird’s plight is magnified by the fact that he is not sure of his paternity. In his own inner turmoil, Dickie Bird seeks to answer this complex puzzle. This clearly translates to the fact that he becomes unsure of his origin. This is a major blow to his heritage since he cannot personally trace it and, therefore, lacks a strong sense of identity. Tomson Highway uses this character to advance his own ideas and try to emphasize that the interaction of culture creates a sense of confusion among the natives. Pierre St. Pierre, who is depicted in the play as the clown of Rez, is a chronic alcoholic whose intentions become misdirected and misunderstood. Therefore, Dickie Bird serves as a channel through which the author, Tomson Highway seeks to express his dissatisfaction regarding the slow decadence of the native cultures of the people. Tomson Highway used intense symbolism and imagery in his expression of the inner turmoil faced by the character Dickie Bird. For example, the gruesome rape scene is used as a form of symbolism aimed at relaying his message. 

A horrific climax emerges in this play in which two very significant but opposing and different symbols get connected. They are Nanabush and crucifix. In this play, Dickie Bird raped a woman using a cross, which carries major symbolism. The use of the cross is interpreted as representing Christianity. This is because the cross has been taken to be the main symbol of Christianity historically. Christianity, according to the author, is the essence of western civilization. The rape victim, named Patsy, introduces another twist in the interpretation of this play since she is the only character who did not recognize Christianity. Patsy rejects Christianity in totality for native traditional culture and beliefs. In the play, Nanabush appears to represent Patsy. The author further seeks to emphasize his idea since Nanabush is also conservative in the native beliefs and cultures. Tomson Highway used the rape in his play in order to emphasize his attitude. He seeks to explore the fact that the western culture, Christianity in particular, is trying to antagonize the native culture, practices, and beliefs. The symbolism is intended to show the audience the antagonism between two major conflicting cultures. The Christians despise the native traditions, beliefs, and terms to an extent of demonizing them. On the other hand, the natives are totally opposed to the western influence on their society. It is, however, clear that the cultures often dominate, override and prevail over each other. In this case, the new culture, which is advanced by the author as Christianity, has a great influence on the culture of the natives. Some individuals are caught in this war between two warring influences because of the introduction of Christianity into an existing traditional system. 

The play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe begins with a trial. In this case, Rita Joe is depicted by the author as a defendant. It is should be noted that Rita Joe lacks representation of a lawyer. The girl faces a police officer who appears as a witness testifying against her while the magistrate is waiting to determine her fate. According to his open remarks, the magistrate displays his intention to be firm but fair while handling Rita Joe’s case. However, the first words of the girl place a major twist on the magistrate’s way of reviewing the case. Rita Joe claims that she was picked by some police officer in disguise of clients who had offered her money before arresting her. The man was acting as undercover police officer while arresting Rita. The magistrate remains impartial while ruling and observing the law since Rita tries to plead her case by expressing her innocence. The singer in the play offers a melodic voice of Rita who is the accused girl. The rest of act one continues to explain how Rita Joe tries to plead her case with the judge. As the trial progresses, the past events seem to be aroused and have significant influence on the present situation. This is important in the sense that the magistrate is disturbed by memories as he tried to review the past events while listening to Rita’s arguments. 

Dickie Bird is the product of rape. The author has chosen to use symbolism to express the horrendous nature of the clash of cultures. The rape incident is used by the author as a way of influencing the audience to be more attentive. The society considers rape as one of the worst crimes that its member can commit. Therefore, Tomson Highway uses it as a symbolic way to express negative consequences of this clash between the identities. The product of this interaction is children, who are confused about their identity and heritage. This inner turmoil encourages Dickie Bird to search his biological father. If he succeeds to find him, he will be able to understand his real identity. Tomson Highway attempts to express the fact that when two different cultures collide, one of them often prevails. One is likely dominate leading to a situation in which the people will ignore one of them gradually and adopt the other. Therefore, the natives are expected to adopt a new culture while ignoring their original culture. The result is that the children are unable to choose one, which leaves them frustrated and confused. They represent the product of a clash of the cultures. 

In his play, Dry lips oughta move to Kapukasing, Tomson Highway seeks to highlight the fact that Christian religious leaders have continued to condemn native religious beliefs and practices. The priests have continually attempted to eradicate traditional beliefs and practices by demonizing them.  The natives, on the other hand, are strongly opposed to the westernization and do not leave their cultures for Christianity. They retain much of their values and beliefs to the extent that the Christian influence does not draw their attention. The children are most affected by this confusion. In this case, Dickie Bird takes center stage. He gets caught between these conflicting factions. Since Dickie has an obsession with the cross, which represents Christianity, he rapes a pregnant woman using it. In his work, Tomson Highway seeks to dismantle the dominant ideology and assumptions of the general view of the society. Tomson explores the fact that gender roles are used as reasons for oppression. He further shows that other social aspects, such as race, religion, and sexuality, are interrelated. This, then, attempts to explain the gap that is inherent among different people and groups based on their cultures, race, and other aspects. 

The author of the play intends to challenge the audience through his fictional characters to employ social criticism trying to evaluate the dominant social order that is mostly advanced by the dominant ideology and society beliefs. Therefore, dramatic literature is used to deconstruct the dominant beliefs and assumptions regarding some prevalent ideology. The play greatly highlights the situation of marginalized people who are not accepted and by the dominant social order in the society. This is advanced through numerous fictional characters such as Dickie Bird, who has drawn author’ attention while, attempting to express his ideology. These minority groups are pushed to the periphery and do not have equal representation as the rest of the society that believes in the rule of the majority. These groups are finally eliminated from the center of the society by the dominant forces. Drama and film seeks to highlight the turmoil of such a people, whose request is denied. This means that they fail to express themselves in a society that is obsessed with the dominant ideology without sufficient regard to the minor diversities within itself. The issues such as race and religious beliefs created natural divisions among people. This is vividly illustrated by Dickie Bird in the horrendous act that is symbolically used to represent such a conflict. Dickie Bird is used by the author to express the danger of such a situation, in which there are natural divisions based on the social order of the people. 


There was a situation when Dickie Bird was interested in Monroe’s poster. The mentally handicapped boy was noticed to have stared at Monroe’s portrait as if he were in a state of trance. The author states that Dickie directly stands in front of Monroe’s portrait. These moments occurred after Dickie had raped Nanabush, who appeared as Patsy. While staring at this image, the boy bent his head as if he was disappointed. Highway attempts to show the audience that Monroe represents imperialism and its dangerous implication to the natives. Dickie, who is mentally handicapped, recognized the influence of western culture on the sexualization on women. This is expressed clearly by the fact that after realizing that he has raped a woman, he stares at Monroe’s photo in a state of trance. He later drops his head expressing great regret and disappointment in his actions, which is influenced by the western culture, according to the author. The reason is that the character of Monroe represents imperialism. Dickie Bird, therefore, acknowledges that he has made mistake and regrets, showing the effects of imperialism on his actions. The western culture was successful in its attempt to sway the natives to abandon their cultures and adopt the western influence. Consequently, some individuals regret to have adhered to new cultural believe. The incident, in which Dickie stares at a portrait, is symbolic and is used by the author to advance this ideology.

Rita Joe uses the past on various occasions to explain her case and introduces different events that arouse numerous memories about the past. The author shows in his play that the memories haunt even the magistrate, who is supposed to provide a verdict. It happens when Rita Joes tells the story of a young girl. She reminds the magistrate of a poor young girl who lived in the country called Cariboo. In this case, the magistrate shows sympathy to the accused. Rita’s recollection of the past changes the attitude of the magistrate towards the girl, and he starts to sympathize with her. The magistrate is overwhelmed with emotions. However, according to his responsibilities he is required to remain impartial while passing the judgment, which forces him maintain his principle of being firm and fair. The magistrate asks Rita whether she is aware of her charges and ready to present her side of witnesses. He asks suspiciously the accused whether she has any venereal disease.

In this play, Rita is not interested in defending herself or in the charges she will have to bear. The reason is that she neither trusts nor understands the situation in which she is caught. She fails to defend herself and shows little interest in this. She seems to welcome people that she met in her past, and this disrupts her conversation with the magistrate. This also prevents her from expressing complaints of hunger and fatigue, from which she claims she is suffering. This situation involves symbolism in the sense that Rita embraces the Indian Americans as opposed to the white people depicted further in the play. Rita failed to embrace the white Americans. She saw them in her dreams and memories unlike the Indian Americans. 

Similarly to Rita, Paul, another character in the play, falls to the tricks of the city in which Rita lives. It is least expected from the beginning since this character appears very composed and enthusiastic. He rents a place to stay and even gets a job. He is amazed at the varieties of life when it is compared to that of the native people where he lived before. His fate is, however, short-lived since he loses his job and begins to drink. He lost his hope and spent his life as an unemployed man. Despite all these circumstances, he does not want to go home.

Both plays seem to show the role of children in the society that is dynamic and fast changing as well as implication of these social and political trends. The children in both plays feel confused due to the rapid changing times. In the first play, the main character is in the center of the confusion. Dickie is a child born within the introduction of western civilization and dilemma of the people who want to retain their native traditions and beliefs. On the other hand, the play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe,   seeks to highlight the role of the main fictional character called Rita Joe. The major events in the play surround this character. The author introduces a form of symbolism in the play. There is a point in the play in which the main character Rita Joe uses a tale of a little girl to explain her case. The author uses this form of symbolism to move both the audience and the magistrate. Rita Joe tends to use this to highlight the role of children in the society. Both the plays have heavily employed the use of symbolism to highlight their themes. 


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