Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 1, Chapter 4 | Summary

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Summary

This chapter opens with another incident in which Molly's actions result in severe reprimands and threats from Carrie. Cheryl Spiegelglass, a girl who lives near the Denman house, is a sometime playmate of Molly, even though Molly finds her stuck up and too girly. One day when Cheryl wants to play nurse instead of playing with her dolls, Leroy and Molly join her. The problem arises when Cheryl says only Leroy can play the doctor because "only boys can be doctors." This comment enrages Molly, who says she can be anything she wants. When Cheryl continues to argue, Molly punches her.

By the time Molly and Leroy get home, Carrie has already received the news from Ethel, Cheryl's mother, and is "hopping mad." She begins with the usual insults, calling Molly a brat, unladylike, and a wild animal. When she says, "Your father must have been an ape or something," even the slow-witted Leroy understands what it means. Thus he learns Molly is illegitimate, and Molly is furious.

Carrie continues with her rant, saying Molly will have to stay inside the rest of the summer so Carrie can make a lady out of her, teaching her "to act right, cook, clean, and sew." Appalled by this idea, Molly speaks out, causing Leroy to volunteer to stay inside with her. Of course Carrie declares his offer to be unnatural, telling Leroy everyone will make fun of him. So Leroy backs off.

When Carrie goes into the root cellar to get the supplies she needs to teach Molly the first thing—canning—Molly locks her in. She tells Carrie she will not let her out until she promises she will not have to stay inside learning these lessons. Then she leaves and takes Leroy with her, ignoring Carrie's screaming and pounding on the door. Molly spends time patiently explaining her situation to Leroy, trying to make him feel better about her being a bastard and not his real cousin.

Then Molly returns to the house to see if Carrie is "ready to make a deal." Carrie responds with a whimper and a promise to do whatever it takes to get "outa this dark hole." When Molly opens the door, Carrie flies "out of the cellar like a jack-in-the-box" and begins beating her daughter. She also makes her go to bed without supper. Molly hears Carrie and Carl arguing about her. Carrie calls Molly unnatural and says she must be taught how to "get a husband." Carl defends Molly and vows she will go to college and have the chances he and Carrie never had. Even though Carrie continues to argue with him and denigrate their daughter, Carl does not budge in his conviction Molly is someone to be proud of, someone who will "be somebody."

Analysis

Once again Molly's conviction people should be allowed to be whomever they want to be is apparent. She doesn't get angry at Cheryl because Molly wants to be a doctor—Molly actually plans to be the president of the United States!—she is angry whenever someone tries to push her into a corner or restrict her because things aren't done that way. This attitude is also why Molly is so offended by Carrie's declaration she must learn to act the way all women should so she can "get a man." An attitude embracing shoulds is unacceptable to Molly. Any hurt she feels over Carrie's usually harsh words about her pales in comparison with the idea she must embrace Carrie's narrow definition of how she should operate in the world.

When Molly explains to Leroy why her bastard status is unimportant, she reveals her contempt for traditions such as marriage. "It's a piece of paper, that's all I can figure," she says to him. At 11 she is already rejecting marriage as an institution that makes no sense to her. To Molly these types of traditions are as false as the declarations people have to act a certain way because of gender. She scoffs at Leroy when he suggests, "You have to do some of the things everybody does or people don't like you." Her response is she simply isn't put on Earth to be liked by others but to like herself.

The conversation Molly overhears between Carrie and Carl the night Carrie beats her is important to her as she develops into a young woman. She knows Carl is her advocate; she knows he admires her intelligence and strong will. Indeed, his support is critical to her. Even as she listens to Carrie vent about how Molly is not her real daughter and represents the only problem in their marriage, she also hears Carl's quiet certitude Molly is his real daughter, whom he loves and will help in any way he can to lift Molly out of the life he is in. And when Carl avows Molly will "go to big cities and be somebody," it is a bit of foreshadowing readers should take note of.

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