Ruined Summary

Lynn Nottage


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Ruined Summary

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Ruined is a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Lynn Nottage which, in addition to the Pulitzer in 2009, has racked up numerous other wins and nominations from the Drama Desk Awards, the Outer Critics Circle Awards, the Drama League Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, and the Obie Awards.

The play is set in a tin mining town in the Democratic Republic of Congo and opens in Mama Nadi’s bar—which doubles as a brothel. In walks Christian, Mama Nadi’s connection to goods like cigarettes, chocolate, lipstick, and other necessities for the girls that ply their trades under Mama Nadi’s roof. During their conversation—in which Christian flirts with Mama Nadi—the man gets Mama Nadi to bring two more girls into the fold of her brothel’s activities. Both girls—named Salima and Sophie—according to Christian, had previously been assaulted by men. It is also revealed in this conversation the Sophie is Christian’s niece and she is, as the title of the play asserts, ruined. This means that she will be unable to reproduce in the future because of frequent sexual violence she had forced upon her. Mama Nadi reluctantly accepts the girls, allowing them to work at her bar.

Over time, a wide variety of people—important and not—walk into Mama Nadi’s. The important ones—leaders of the government, the army, and the rebel army— however, hold Mama Nadi’s interest, as she tends to their wants and needs. This not only keeps them happy, but it ensures that they will not hurt her or her business in any way, shape, or form.

One day, a diamond trader name Mr. Harari informs Mama Nadi that there is a diamond in her possession—which she is holding onto for a certain rebel leader—that is worth quite a lot of money because it is actually a raw diamond. The diamond itself is kept in a special place where only one other thing is stored—a document that states how Sophie can get her fertility to return to her. After this visit, there are more visits from drum soldiers and rebels, from Christian, and from a soldier named Fortune, who is Salima’s husband and works for the government as a soldier.

The next major scene happens between Sophie, Salima, and another girl, Josephine, whom the two develop a rivalry of sorts with. You learn that Sophie is refusing to sleep with the men that come for pleasure in the bar, that Josephine is contemplating moving into the diamond trader Mr. Harari’s house in the city, and that Salima is pregnant by one of the soldiers that has raped her and she is also refusing to see her husband, Fortune. All of these conflicts are mean to represent the myriad conflicts going on outside.

Sophie’s choice to refuse sex has repercussions, though, as she gets in more trouble with Mama Nadi. You also learn that Christian is an alcoholic and it has come back to haunt him and, when Salima refuses to see Fortune, the soldier tells one leader that the other was seen at the bar, where he then goes to. In the chaos that ensues, Mama Nadi gives Sophie to the government leader while convincing him not to do anything else.

After this, Mr. Harari decides he is leaving, as he does not want to get caught in the conflict that seems about to erupt. Mama Nadi gives Mr. Harari the special diamond in order to pay for him to take Sophie with him and have the procedure to fix her undertaken. He agrees, but the truck he’s on leaves before Sophie is able to get on.

It is at this point that the rival groups meet at Mama Nadi’s and begin a gunfight.  The fighting stops when Salima shows herself, announcing that she’s killed the baby she was pregnant with. She also says that she won’t be used anymore, and dies in Fortune’s arms.

After the fight ends, Mama tries to rebuild her business. Christian comes back, sober again, and says that he wants to try and build a life with her, as he did earlier in the play. Mama Nadi tries to play it off and resist, but eventually it is revealed that she, too, is ruined in the way Sophie is. The two embrace and Mama Nadi cries. As she cries, Christian tells her that he really does want to settle down with her and run the bar and live their lives together. Mama Nadi doesn’t give a straight answer, and as the play ends, the two dance together.