Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 1, Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Two days after the incident with Earl, a tragic series of events begins to unfold at the Denman home. Ep, the husband of Florence's daughter Jennifer, comes home in bad shape after a fight, badly cut in many places by Layton, a knife-wielding local man. Ep, known for his hot temper, picks a fight with Layton because Layton is bragging about his son's acceptance to West Point while mocking Ep's sons Leroy and Ted as sons "of a fool ... so dumb they don't know their ass from their elbow."

The person who breaks up the fight is Carl, Molly's adoptive father, whom Ep describes as "so good-natured he can get anyone feeling good again." Jennifer is obviously troubled by Ep's latest fight, for she doesn't "think fighting is an example for [our sons]." But Ep expresses remorse and kisses her as he pats her very pregnant stomach. Then Carl, who works as a butcher, comes bustling in with a big piece of lamb and announces they are going to have a special supper of lamb stew. Everyone, even Florence, seems to want to "smooth things out."

Jennifer, whom Molly adores and calls "Aunt Jenna," is about ready to deliver her baby, but she has been losing weight rather than gaining. When she goes to the hospital, she has a baby boy she names Carl, but he lives only two days. Nor does she come home from the hospital. By eavesdropping on the adults Molly learns Jennifer apparently suffered throughout the pregnancy but knew there was no money to spend on a doctor and therefore remained silent. When the baby was delivered, the doctors discovered she had cancer throughout her body.

With Molly when they hear this news, Leroy begs her to explain what the adults mean. Stunned, Molly whispers to him his mother is probably going to die. When he begins sobbing, she urges him not to let the adults know they know, suggesting "maybe it's a mistake and she'll be home soon." Molly asks if she can stay with Leroy that night, but Carrie won't allow it, saying it isn't right for a young girl to sleep with her two male cousins.

Jennifer dies within a week, and her funeral is well attended. The grief in the house is palpable after everyone leaves. Unable to sleep, Molly creeps out of bed in the room she shares with Carl and Carrie and sees Carl and Ep crying in each other's arms. The next day a big rainstorm leaves behind a beautiful rainbow.

Analysis

Just as Molly knows a bad person when she meets one, and responds accordingly, she is able to see true goodness in people and admire them. In other words, she has emotional intelligence. She knows Jennifer is a fine person whom everyone seems to respect and is deeply upset that her Aunt Jenna, only 33 years old, dies this way. She does not miss that one of the reasons for her death is lack of money—Jennifer doesn't speak of her pains because she knows they can't afford a doctor. In the same way, Molly knows Carl's goodness and admires the way he takes control of the situation the night of Ep's fight and turns the evening into a fine family event. Her keen observational skills extend to Florence as well. The night of the funeral she observes Florence "almost enjoyed the attention she was getting ... but it was mixed with sorrow. So much of what Florence did was mixed that way."

Several things puzzle Molly in this chapter. She does not understand why Carrie won't let her stay with Leroy and Ted and try to comfort them. She is not sure it is okay for Carl and Ep to hug each other the night of the funeral, observing, "I'd never seen men hold each other. I thought the only things they were allowed to do was shake hands or fight." She senses their need to touch each other on this night is fine, but she doesn't know if they do it regularly "after everyone went to bed so no one would know the toughness was for show." She is bothered by not knowing.

As usual when placed in a tough situation and when feeling out of control, Molly hopes to find solace in nature. She approaches the grieving Leroy and Ted after the funeral with the idea that they can go down to the pond together the next day—the place in the woods where she hopes they might be healed from some of the pain. A big storm squashes those plans, but when a natural phenomenon occurs in the form of a rainbow, Molly gets some healing from it. She stops short of calling it a symbol of Jenna's lasting presence, but she does tell Leroy to shut up when he says there isn't a pot of gold at the end because "the rainbow was enough." The rainbow may also be a sign of better things to come after a difficult time.

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