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.

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