by Lynn Nottage

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What are the main objectives of the characters in Ruined?

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The three leads of the play are Mama Nadi, Josephine, and Sophie. The three women have very different specific objectives that all lead to essentially the same outcome: survival.

Mama Nadi achieves her objective of surviving the conflict in the Congo by running a bar and brothel to the best of her business-like abilities. She maintains a sense of order in her establishment in order to ensure that her customers know what to expect, an objective that protects her financially. Sometimes, Mama Nadi sacrifices her own integrity to make sure that her business is running, but maintaining integrity is a less important objective than survival.

Josephine achieves her objective of survival by using her body as a form of sexual insurance. She looks to please the men in her world as a way to make sure she has a means to a better life. Though attention and ego-boosts appear as if they are important objectives to Josephine, ultimately, they both contribute to her goal of surviving the war.

Sophie is the youngest and least experienced of the three women, and she works towards her objectives with honesty and a naive sense of optimism. She, like Mama Nadi and Josephine, wants a better life, and this life involves a medical operation to repair the effects of her injuries. She also wants to rescue Salima as well as herself, an objective that may not have ever been realistic.

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For Mama Nadi, her main goal seems to be to run her business successfully enough that she can feed herself and the young women who work for her. She wants to feel safe and have small creature comforts like chocolates and lipsticks. Josephine, who appears to be the most senior of Mama's girls, seems most interested in being comfortable and maybe even getting out of her situation. Mr. Harari seems interested in taking Josephine with him at one point, and she would obviously like to leave Mama's if possible. Sophie and Salima seem most interested in peace and safety. Both have been the victims of unimaginable violence.

Commander Osembenga's main goal is to squash the rebellion and kill its leader, Jerome Kisembe. Mr. Harari wants safety and comfort, just like Josephine. When he is given an opportunity to escape, he takes it. Fortune wants his wife, Salima, back, but it is too late in her mind for such a reconciliation. Christian, as he tells Mama in the end, wants to settle down and "sleep in the same bed every night." He wants someone to love and someone to love him.

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