by Lynn Nottage

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In Lynn Nottage's Ruined, what is a significant symbol?

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Ruined is a play that explores the idea of women being ruined by war. It questions what it means to be ruined and whether or not there is a possibility of redemption. Nottage makes use of the brothel as a significant symbol as it provides hope, freedom, and protection for the women who are staying there.

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I would say that Mama Nadi's brothel is a significant symbol in the drama.  The conventional view of a brothel is a place of dehumanization, of significant belittling and an arena where hopelessness reigns.  Nottage inverts this a bit and makes the brothel a significant symbol of hope for the women who stay there.  In doing so, Mama ends up providing shelter to the women.  If Mama's brothel is not there, there is a very good chance that the women will be enslaved or raped by the army and the ravaging of civil war will become reality for the women.  The brothel is symbolic of how the women might have a chance to redeem their future in a setting where redemption is challenging to find.  It is in this where I think that the brothel becomes significant.  Consider that Christian brings Sophie to the brothel because she is "ruined."  It becomes symbolically important to note that women who are ruined are brought to the brothel, traditionally a place where women go to become ruined.  In this, Nottage makes an important symbol where redemption becomes possible in a setting where so little can be redeemed.

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