Back To Course12th Grade English: Tutoring Solution
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Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.
Lynn Nottage's Ruined is set in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mama Nadi owns a bar in the war-torn country, and most of the play's action occurs inside the bar. As the play begins, Mama is speaking with a salesman named Christian who periodically visits the bar. When she tries to serve Christian a beer, he reminds her that he hasn't had a drink in four years.
As the play progresses, Christian asks Mama to come see what he has brought. Once we see the inside of Christian's truck, it soon becomes clear that the bar is also a brothel, for there are three women in the back. Mama Nadi says she doesn't need three girls, but Christian offers her a good price if she takes the whole group. Mama indicates that she only wants Sophie, a strikingly beautiful girl.
Still trying to strike a deal, Christian then offers her two girls for the price of one, but Mama resists and asks, ''Are you deaf? No. Tst! I don't need two more mouths to feed and pester me,'' she says. Seeing his plan fall apart, Christian finally reveals that Salima was kidnapped from her small village, and the soldiers had used her as a concubine. Salima was married to a farmer, Christian says, but she can't go home, either. Continuing to provide the backstories of the girls, Christian says Sophie is 'ruined'. ''Look,'' Christian says, ''militia did ungodly things to the child, took her with ... a bayonet and then left her for dead.'' After some bickering, Christian reveals that he's trying to find a home for the girl because she is his niece. After hearing this, Mama finally agrees to take Sophie in and has her sing, clean, and cook.
The Civil War rages on, and various soldiers drift in and out of the bar. In spite of this, Mama Nadi does her best to remain neutral and keep the peace inside the bar. One of the prostitutes, Josephine, entertains a regular suitor named Mr. Harari, a Lebanese mineral merchant. Because of his profession, Mama Nadi produces a bag of diamonds and asks Mr. Harari to appraise them. Mr. Harari says that one of the raw gems is valuable.
Later, Sophie and Salima secretly make plans to leave on the bus. Both women miss their families, and Salima frequently mentions her baby. The two plan to fund their trip with money Sophie has been stealing from Mama. Salima also tells Sophie that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, Christian returns to the bar with the news that the white preacher has been kidnapped. Here we should keep in mind that Mama serves both the government soldiers and the rebel soldiers at her bar, which is why she attempts to remain neutral in the conflict.
In this instance, remaining neutral might be tricky with Osembenga, commander of the government forces, not only hanging around but warning Mama of a rebel soldier named Kisembe. Warning complete, Osembenga then turns his attention to Christian, demanding that Christian drinks with him. To keep the peace, Christian reluctantly agrees.
Eventually Sophie discovers the stones that Mama has hidden and asks about them. Mama tells her that a man gave the dull stone to her to keep for him. A lot of people would sell it and run away, Mama says, ''But it is my insurance policy, it is what keeps me from becoming like them. There must always be a part of you that this war can't touch. It'll be here, if he comes back.'' With that being said, Mama Nadi then confronts Sophie about her theft of the money. Explaining why she's been taking the money, Sophie tells Mama Nadi that a woman has told her about an operation to repair her damaged genitals.
When Christian enters the bar the next day, he tells Mama that the preacher has been found. ''The cook said it was Osembenga's soldiers. They accused the pastor of aiding rebels. They cut him up beyond recognition. Cut out his eyes and tongue,'' Christian reports. He then orders a drink. Mama asks if he's sure, and it becomes clear that he has taken up drinking again when he says ''Just give it to me, damn it!''
Around that time, two soldiers, Fortune and Simon, enter and order food. Fortune asks if there is a woman named Salima at the bar, revealing that he is her husband. Though Mama convinces him to leave, he stays outside because, despite whatever Mama said, he believes Salima is there.
In this act, Mama Nadi convinces Salima that the woman Fortune loves, the woman she was, doesn't exist anymore. She says Salima's husband won't view her the same way anymore because of all the men she has been with. Making matters worse, Salima reveals that the baby she's expecting is not Fortune's. ''It's the child of a monster,'' Salima says. Fortune tells Osembenga that Kisembe has been hidden at Mama's bar, and he has driven away in a truck. Fortune also tells him that Mama is holding his wife captive.
Mr. Harari returns, and Mama sells him the diamond. She then gives him a doctor's name and asks him to take Sophie for the operation, and he agrees. However, when Sophie is ready to leave, she learns that the truck he's on leaves before she gets there. At this point, Osembenga and Fortune return, accusing Mama of hiding Kisembe. Fortune, still looking for Salima, calls out his wife's name. Salima comes into the bar with a blood stain spreading across the waist of her dress, and even though Fortune and Mama tend to her, she soon dies.
Christian returns months later and has stopped drinking again. He professes his love for Mama Nadi, but she says she is 'ruined'. With no clear decision about what happens with the two of them, the play ends with the two of them dancing together.
Mama Nadi is a complex character. On one hand, she is a tough businesswoman; and yet, on the other hand, she seems to genuinely care for the prostitutes who work for her. She realizes that it's easy for people to lose their humanity in the war, so she attempts to keep her own humanity by fulfilling her promise to the man who gave her the diamond. Could she start a whole new life if she sold the gem? Yes; but she does the honorable thing and keeps it in case the man ever returns.
Also, because of their tragic history and the manner in which they make a living, the prostitutes are often referred to as 'ruined.' You see, through no fault of their own, they have become damaged goods in the eyes of some people. The country has also been ruined by the brutal war that rages within it, and in another twist, even though Mama Nadi tried to remain neutral to stay safe, she is economically ruined by everything that's happened during all the fighting. However, the theme of this play is about endurance and how the women manage to overcome these difficulties in what becomes their sanctuary: Mama Nadi's bar.
Mama Nadi's bar is the setting for this play about women who endure physical and emotional abuse in the war-torn Congo. Mama Nadi tries to protect the prostitutes who work for her - Sophie, Salima, and Josephine - from male soldiers like Osembenga. Mr. Harari complicates life for Mama when he leaves with the diamond, but at the end of the play, she is rewarded with the love of Christian.
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Back To Course12th Grade English: Tutoring Solution
15 chapters | 231 lessons