February 13, 2013
The Significance of Music in Ruined
In Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, Mama Nadi’s bar and brothel is a safe haven for all who enter. She strips soldiers of guns, she insists that filthy miners wash their hands and she keeps the place socially separated from the civil war waging just beyond the door. The customers seem to find a sense of peace amongst the chaos when they enter Mama’s bar. In order to keep the sense of tranquility, Mama Nadi provides live music. Sophie sings passionately to entertain the customers. The music helps her to express her impassioned hopelessness. The lyrics of her songs that she sings symbolize Sophie’s despair over the seemingly never-ending conflict of the civil war in the Congo and her reaction to the soldiers’ way of dealing with the moral implications of their violent actions, such as their physical and sexual violence toward innocent women. Sophie’s songs seem to expose the unhealed wounds left by the perpetual violence surrounding her and connect her to soldiers who fight for a blurry cause. The inclusion of Sophie’s music transforms Ruined from a play about tragedy and hopelessness to a story about endurance, inspiring hope in both Sophie and Mama.
The songs sung by Sophie serve the purpose of unearthing Sophie’s hopefulness. One song in particular is repeated multiple times throughout the play. It represents her ability to disconnect from the physical embodiment of her pain and release her suppressed optimism. Sophie is immediately introduced to Mama and to the audience as a “ruined” woman. This initial impression we have of her is central to the impact she eventually has on the play. She is useless in a setting that sexually services men for money. It begs the question of why Mama would even allow her to stay at the brothel when it will only cost her to feed and care for Sophie. Christian persuades her by insisting that “the girl cooks, cleans and sings like an angel....