Nottage includes very few references to wildlife in Ruined. This detail calls attention to itself because the play is set in a largely rural area in which the reader might expect more of a connection to nature and wildlife; however, the violence and chaos from the war overshadow the natural elements of the town’s surroundings. One of the few mentions of wildlife is to birds. After Old Papa Batunga died, Mama got his gray parrot. At the beginning of the play, she explains to Christian that the parrot speaks pygmy. Since Old Papa was the last of his tribe, the bird is believed to represent the words of the forest. Old Papa told Mama that as long as the words of the forest people were spoken the spirits would stay alive.

Nottage’s subtle reference to the parrot and its words from the forest are important elements of the play. This parrot may be the only remaining vestige of tribal life that represents the truly living. The words from the forest fall on deaf ears in these tribal conflicts. The parrot is part messenger, part historian. It is up to the characters to decide what they can learn from it and the spirits from a tribal past.

Nottage includes another reference to a bird in Ruined. When Salima retells the day that she was taken by the soldiers, she describes a peacock that visited her garden as she was working. She describes the bird as taunting her and showing off its feathers. When she looked up again, she was surrounded by four soldiers and then struck in the face with the butt of a gun. Her nightmare began after seeing the peacock. Its taunting serves as a thematic omen in the play. Birds display their feathers to call attention to themselves. In Ruined, the soldiers violently display their physical strength—often at the destruction of everything around them, including women.

Poetry, Song, Novels
Nottage’s characters frequently express song and poems as forms of healing. In an attempt to win her love and affection, Christian recites poetry to Mama. He...

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