Act 1, Scenes 3–4

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Last Reviewed on January 30, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1331

Act 1, Scene 3

Sophie gives a manicure to Salima, who worries that Josephine will discover she borrowed her nail polish. Salima is agitated; when Sophie makes a mistake on her nails, Salima angrily pulls her hand away.

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Salima is upset about a client who bragged that he and his fellow soldiers killed fifteen Hema men and buried them “in their own mining pit.” One miner put the ore into his mouth to prevent the soldiers from stealing it; they killed him with a machete. After the client told her the story, he slept with Salima and then cried. She tells Sophie she could not comfort him, although that was what he wanted. She worries that one of the murdered men could be her brother.

Overcome with missing her family, Salima recalls that her baby, Beatrice, liked bananas and made a funny face when she ate. She wants to go home, but Sophie reminds her what it’s like outside Mama’s safe house: Salima’s village does not want her back, war rages on, and women are targets. Salima retorts that Sophie does not have the life that Salima has. “You, you don’t have to be with them,” she says of the clients she entertains. She explains that the soldiers are rough and angry. She admits she watches Sophie happily singing and feels that Sophie can fly away like a bird if she wants.

Sophie corrects Salima’s perception: although she’s singing, she’s still in pain. She prays that her pain will subside, but she lives every day with the memory of being raped and with the emotional scars that remain.

Salima reveals that she is pregnant and fears that Mama will put her out if she discovers the secret. Sophie reassures her by showing her the money she has saved in between the pages of a book. When asked where the money is from, Sophie states that Mama is not good at counting. Salima is shocked as Sophie explains she will save for them to go to Bunia by bus. She swears Salima to secrecy as Josephine enters the room.

Josephine changes clothes, briefly revealing severe scarring on her stomach. She accuses Salima of stealing her food and magazine and questions if Salima is even able to read. Salima responds that she likes to look at the photographs, but Josephine will not relent despite Sophie’s attempts to mediate. Salima reminds them that she did not have an education: her younger sister went to school, and she married. Josephine asks snidely where her husband is now, but Salima ignores the insult.

Josephine announces she will travel to Kisangani with Mr. Harari. When Sophie asks if Josephine has ever traveled to the city, she says no and then challenges Salima: “I know you haven’t.” Salima feels the need to explain that she had planned to go with her husband, but Josephine stops her with another insult. Salima warns her not to mention her family, yet Josephine continues to taunt her. When Salima storms away, Sophie confronts Josephine, who reminds Sophie that they live in a whorehouse. Sophie retorts that she is not a whore, but Josephine pushes her further, saying, “So many men have had you that you’re worthless.” An insulted Sophie tries to leave, but Josephine stops her, shouting that when the soldiers raided her village and raped the women, no one helped her, even though she is the daughter of the chief. She says Sophie is not special, either.

Act 1, Scene 4

Sophie sings a song about a bird that avoids capture yet yearns to be heard. Christian enters the bar with chocolates and cigarettes for Mama, who gives him a cold soda. She teases him for being the only man she knows who wants soda and not beer. He reminds her that the last time he drank, “I lost several years of my life.”

Christian reports that Pastor Robbins has been missing for two days. An unsurprised Mama claims that the only good thing the pastor has done is distribute aspirin and penicillin. She...

(The entire section contains 1331 words.)

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Act 1, Scenes 1–2

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Act 1, Scenes 5–6

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