Ruined is a Pulitzer-winning play by Lynn Nottage. The story opens in a small mining town in the tropical Ituri rain forest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Christian, a salesman, has just returned from a road trip of supplies for Mama Nadi. Mama Nadi chides Christian for taking so long to return, and yet the setting is beset by military soldiers, a very dangerous war and much brutality.
In addition to lipstick and other supplies, Christian has delivered three women to Mama to work in her brothel. She offers to pay $20 for one of them, Sophie, a beautiful and defiant girl. Christian persuades Mama to take Sophie and one additional girl, Salima, who is not nearly as attractive. (Salima is from the Hema tribe.) Christian gives Mama cartons of cigarettes to convince her to take them both.
Josephine, one of Mama’s girls, is called to take the girls to the back and get them washed and dressed. After they leave, Christian explains what he knows about each girl. Salima comes from a tiny village that was captured by rebel soldiers, the Mayi-mayi. She spent five months as their concubine and she is early in a pregnancy. Sophie, Christian simply says, is “ruined,” meaning her genitals are damaged. It turns out that Sophie is Christian’s niece (his sister’s daughter) and that she cannot return to her village. She is eighteen.
To persuade Mama to take them, Christian also offers Belgian chocolates, which makes her nostalgic. Mama’s own mother was a prostitute who would take her children to Kisangani, a city nearby. Mama and her brother would eat caramels while her mother visited “the uncles.”
In Scene 2, it is Christmastime. Music plays and soldiers are playing pool and dancing in the bar. Salima and Josephine dance for them. Sophie sings. The soldiers are drunk and more than one tries to get the attention of Sophie. Mr. Harari, a diamond merchant, is unofficially monitoring the drunken soldiers' poses, insults, belligerence, and bravado. One of the rebel soldiers grows more belligerent. Mama calms him temporarily by having Salima come over and dance with him. Sophie continues singing.
Mama empties a bag of diamonds for Mr. Harari to evaluate. One of them catches his eye as a potentially valuable raw gem. She becomes once again nostalgic recalling how hard her father worked (like Mr. Harari), but that her father had once lost valuable family land. This fate had taken everything for Mama and her family. She has since worked to make sure that never happens again.
The next morning Sophie and Salima discuss the war and how much they miss their families. Salima especially misses her baby daughter, Beatrice. The young women discuss how dangerous it is to be out in the Congo alone during the war. They secretly make plans to leave together on a bus using money that Sophie is taking (her tips) from Mama.
In Scene 4, it is another night in the bar with Sophie singing. Christian arrives with chocolate and cigarettes for Mama. He brings more news about events in the...
(The entire section is 1235 words.)
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