Sunday, September 30, 2007


The Theme of Rubyfruit Jungle

Molly Bolt: True to Herself

The theme of a work of fiction is the intellectual statement made by the author about a story. It is the one irreducible idea out of which the story flows. Though Rubyfruit Jungle is clearly a lesbian story, I believe that the theme is much more universal. It seems to be saying something about the necessity of being true to one's nature in a world that does not value individuality. In the book, Molly Bolt is the superhuman individualist that we all wish we could be and who retains her individuality despite all odds. We see an example of Molly's individualist bent when Leroy comes to her for advice after having a sexual experience with Craig. When he expresses fear that he might be gay, and asks Molly is she thinks he's queer, she replies, "I think you are Leroy Denman. I don't give a flying fuck what you do, you're still Leroy." This seems to sum up the attitude she has towards others and that she would want others to have towards her. Later, after Leroy and Molly decide to have sex, Leroy expresses alarm when Molly takes the initiative and grabs his "thing." "You can't do that," he exclaims, to which Molly responds, "Whaddya mean, I can't do that?" She goes on to scold him for living by other people's rules and says that she can do anything she wants.

Molly's being a bastard is a further symbol of her individualism. I think her being adopted sets her up to be free from any binding family ties and causes her to be more isolated and independent that if she wasn't. It also gives her the chance to thumb her nose at conventional beliefs about family and morality. When she gets in trouble with her friend Brocoli, and her step-mother, Carrie, scolds her and tells her that she is bad because she is a bastard, Molly responds with, "I don't care. It makes no difference where I came from. I'm here, ain't I?" Molly is clearly not like her adoptive family. After another one of her adventures Molly overhears Carl and Carrie arguing about her. Carl makes the statement that, "That kid’s quicker than all of us put together." When Carrie finally kicks Molly out of the house, Molly still refuses to give up saying that she'll die before she puts her tail between her legs. She will not give up her individuality to conform to the family despite the sacrifice of losing that source of belonging.

Molly’s individuality is even apparent in the New York lesbian scene. This is the very scene that she left home in search of, but she finds that when she gets there, it is almost as restrictive as life in a small town with it’s “kept” women and its narrowly defined roles. Molly ultimately rejects this scene also, despite the fact that doing so means that she will have to work all the harder to accomplish her goals.

These goals themselves are also exemplary of her desire to go her own way and not be influenced by what society considers to be proper roles for women. Against all odds she makes it through film school and actually does so well that she literally leaves her pseudo-progressive classmates speechless.

I found Molly’s need to remain true to her nature despite the sacrifices she has to make to be similar to the character of Sylvia in Jewett’s “A White Heron.” Just as Sylvia decides to give up the dream of ten dollars and her first real human contact for the sake of her oneness with nature, Molly gives up the chance to live the comfortable life of a kept woman in order to maintain her independence and integrity.

On the other hand, I found the character if Ivan Ilych in Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” to be sort of an antithesis to Molly. While Molly follows her own nature and only plays “the game” when it is the only way to achieve her goals and fulfill her desires, Ivan has become completely immersed in playing the roles necessary to achieve the state of mediocrity that seems to be the goal of his life. In fact, it is this lack of any true goals or desires in Ivan’s life that sets him apart from Molly. With Molly, her need to be independent and to do what she wants is an integral part of her which gives her life meaning. Ivan’s life is meaningless because he has no such purpose.

So, all of this brings me to derive the theme of Rubyfruit Jungle as being something along these lines: Brown uses the character of Molly Bolt to express the idea that in order for one to have a meaningful life, it is necessary to remain true to one’s nature and to pursue one’s desires even if it is necessary to act in ways that contradict what is acceptable in society and that may cause one to be ostracized by friends and family.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waterfall Swimming

This is a long weekend on account of Moon Festival, so yesterday I decided to ride up to the mountains to meet some friends.

It was a nice sunny day, so we went to a river to go swimming.

You can see more photos on Facebook.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

中秋節 - Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival)

Last year, I spent Mid-Autumn Festival (zhong1 qiu1 jie2) in Penghu with a mostly nice family.

This year I'm spending it alone, and that is not a problem, but it reminds me of a Chinese poem from the Tang Dynasty, around 7 A.D. . . .


Here it is in pinyin (the number after the word is the tone):

Jing4 Ye4 Si1
Li3 Bai2
Chuang2 qian2 ming2 yue4 guang1,
yi2 shi4 di4 shang4 shuang1.
Ju3 tou2 wang4 ming2 yue4,
di1 tou2 si1 gu4 xiang1.

Roughly translated (by Herbert A. Giles, of the Wade-Giles crew--not to be confused with the J. Giles Band):

Night Thoughts
I wake, and moonbeams play around my bed,
Glittering like hoar-froast to my wandering eyes;
Up towards the glorious moon I raise my head,
Then lay me down- and thoughts of home arise.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

On a sad note...

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.

Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin.

They put his left leg in... and then the trouble started.

I don't know who made that up, but I got it in an email from my sister-in-law. I thought it was funny enough to pass on. Maybe because, as a teacher of young children, I had to sing it about a million times.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Logging, Pimping, and Your Pal Laling

I finally got all of my photos from my lumberjack adventure developed. I put them on Facebook with a title I stole from Norman Maclean's short story.

See all the photos at Logging, Pimping, and Your Pal Laling.