by Lynn Nottage

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What do the motifs in the play Ruined represent?

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In Lynn Nottage's play Ruined, we see the motifs of rape, devastation, alcohol, and value appear over and over again, and they represent the primary themes of the play and the lives of the characters. Let's look at this in more detail.

Rape stands at the center of this play. Sophie, Salima, Josephine, and Mama have all experienced this horror multiple times, and they believe that they are “ruined” by it. Salima's family and village turned their backs on her. These women are always in danger, and they become more and more devastated as the play progresses. They cannot find peace no matter what they do. Their bodies are mutilated, and so are their minds.

This rape and devastation are symbolic of the destruction of the country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is being torn apart in a civil war. Like the women, the country is experiencing great violence, although, at the end of the play, Mama finds happiness and hope with Christian, and perhaps that is a sign of hope for the country as well.

We also see the motif of alcohol in this play, which is set primarily in a bar and brothel. The characters often turn to alcohol to try to escape their troubles and pain, yet it does not work. The alcohol usually leads only to more pain and more violence.

Finally, the motif of value appears again and again throughout the play. The women feel that they have lost their value. They want to be worth something again, to others but especially to themselves. They do not realize it, but they are like Mama's rough diamond. For all their "ruin," they are human and therefore valuable.

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