Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 1, Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

Molly and Leroy are now in sixth grade, and the focus of this school year for Molly is on schoolmate Leota B. Bisland, "the most beautiful girl [she] had ever seen." To get shy Leota's attention, Molly constantly acts the class clown, and her wise teacher, Miss Potter, decides to try to harness and redirect that energy by making Molly the star of the Christmas play. This decision enrages Cheryl, who believes only she is fit to play the part of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus and "the most perfect woman on earth." Nevertheless Miss Potter remains firm in her decision, naming Cheryl as Joseph, Leota as a lady of Bethlehem, and Leroy as a wise man.

Molly does calm down as a result of her role in the play. She concentrates on being perfect for the part and on her love for Leota, whom she is sure she wants to marry "and look in her green eyes forever." On the night of the play everyone is excited, but Cheryl makes it clear she is going to be the star because of her special skills and beautiful blue cloak.

As the play begins, Cheryl makes true on her promise to be the star by veering from the scripted lines to say whatever pops into her head. Molly responds with similar improvisations. Very soon things get out of hand. One boy playing the part of a shepherd gets so rattled he urinates on the stage. Molly, always the defender of people's rights to do whatever they need to do, responds with outrage, both verbally and physically, to Cheryl's declaration the shepherd must go away immediately and eventually pushes Cheryl off the stage into the audience. At this point Miss Potter stops the play and has the audience join in singing Christmas carols.

Miss Potter does not punish Molly, but Carrie makes her stay inside the house for an entire week doing all of the chores. While engaged in the chores, Molly decides she can marry Leota only if she doesn't have to do more than half of these womanly tasks and then determines to ask Leota to marry her as soon as her one-week punishment ends. Leota's response to Molly's proposal is simple: "Girls can't get married." Molly responds in her typical way, denying the truth of it, and pressing Leota to kiss her so they will be officially engaged. Leota complies, and they find they both really like kissing each other. They start doing it daily after school. When Leroy finds out and threatens to tell everyone, Molly handles it by suggesting he try kissing them to see how he likes it. So then he joins in their daily kissing marathons.

In February Molly learns the family is moving to Florida at the end of the school year. She and Leota vow to continue kissing every day until the move. However, both gradually feel as though there is more they can do together. The week before Molly moves, Leota invites her to spend the night at her house. With Leota taking the lead, the girls make love all night. After that Molly feels she can't move away, but of course she must.

Analysis

Set in Molly's sixth-grade year, this chapter represents the end of her childhood in more than one way. It is the last chapter set in Pennsylvania, her childhood home. It is also the time she discovers her sexuality and her preference for women.

Despite her often sophisticated understanding about life and human nature, Molly remains quite naïve about sex. She is not sure how men and women have sex and bases her ideas about it on having seen two dogs stuck together, an image she finds distasteful. She knows only that when she and Leota kiss, she gets a funny feeling in her stomach. When she kisses Leroy, on the other hand, she feels no such thing. She also feels the need to explore sex beyond kissing without quite knowing what that means. Leota seems more intuitive and emboldened.

Molly sees nothing strange about Leroy's wanting to experiment the same way she and Leota are. Molly will never see anything strange about sexual experimentation that suits each individual's tastes. As she grows up and is exposed to more ways of having sex, she will determine some are not for her, but she never judges people in this area.

Notable about this chapter is how Brown cuts through its seriousness with the slapstick scene of the school play gone awry. In fact, one of the stylistic hallmarks in this novel is the use of humor so intense as to cause many readers to laugh aloud in the face of serious and often painful revelations. It relieves tense moments.

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