Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 3, Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

When Molly walks into the house, Carrie says, "You can turn around and walk right out ... You're lower than them dirty fruit pickers in the groves, you know that?" Molly tries to explain what has happened and who she is, but Carrie gives her no chance. Her stance is clear: "I don't want you." Without further ado Molly takes her suitcase, walks to the nearest highway, and sticks her thumb out to hitch a ride to New York City.

A family in a station wagon from Georgia picks her up. The man, woman, and child inside are nice people who accept Molly's explanation of why she came to Florida and is hitchhiking. They take her as far as Statesboro, Georgia, where the man gives her a $10 bill and warns her to stay safe.

Molly's next ride is from Ralph, a young man about her age in a Corvette, who is returning to school at MIT and takes her all the way to New York. Ralph is smart and congenial, and Molly enjoys their conversation up the eastern seaboard, fueled by the stimulant drug "dex." She has him drop her off at Washington Square, which she thinks is "the hub of [Greenwich] Village ... the hub of homosexuality." The weather is cold, and Molly is unprepared to survive in "this monstrous city." She finally spies "a wrecked Hudson car" near New York University and decides she can at least survive the night in it. She tries the back door first, sees someone already sleeping in the back seat, and gets into the front seat where she falls into an exhausted sleep.

In the morning. Molly meets the other person in the car—Calvin, a good-looking African American gay man. He takes her to a coffee shop where they can get a free breakfast and warm up. Then Calvin spends the day introducing Molly to New York and survival on the streets. He also arranges for her to earn a quick $100 by throwing grapefruit at Ronnie Rapaport, a wealthy young man who gets sexual pleasure from it.

That night Calvin takes Molly for another free meal served to them at a steak restaurant on the sly by one of his past lovers. Then the two go to a gay bar. Molly is shocked to learn lesbians label each other as "butch or femme." She hates labels, but Calvin advises her that's just the way it is in the gay community in New York. After another cold night in the car, Calvin and Molly go back to the coffee shop before parting ways. Calvin has gotten the courage from Molly to hitchhike to his dream place, San Francisco, and Molly is intent on finding a cheap apartment so she can get off the street.

Analysis

After Carrie's rejection of her, Molly is completely alone in the world. Carrie sums it up for her: "You'll have no friends and you got no family. Let's see how far you get, you little snot-nose ... I hope I live to see the day you put your tail between your legs. I'll laugh right in your face." Carrie doesn't seem to realize how strong Molly is. Her fearlessness is amazing. For a young woman to hitchhike across the country in the 1960s takes considerable courage—and risk. To go to a huge city with only $14.61 to your name is equally courageous. Yet Molly does it.

She definitely has good fortune on her side. The rides she gets are both safe and pleasant, but readers know she has put herself in what could have been a dangerous position. Hitchhiking has always been dangerous, even in the 1960s. Sleeping in an abandoned car with an unknown man in the backseat turns out well for Molly—although it too could have turned out disastrous. In fact, Calvin is exactly the person she needs to meet when she gets to the city. From him she receives food and $100 in her pocket. Molly's muscles come into play once again as her arm is as strong as the arm of someone who "throws for the Mets" and more than satisfies the beneficiary of her strength. Calvin teaches her how to navigate the city and what life as a gay person there might look like. Calvin also gives her something even more important: his life story. As he describes the discrimination and rejection he has experienced as a homosexual, she realizes she is not alone. When he tells her about the tough place he has found himself in, impregnating a young woman and leaving her while trying to live a traditional life to be accepted, Molly realizes this is a choice she simply cannot make.

Nor can she accept his invitation to travel with him to California. Her adventures in New York are like a fairy tale that is just beginning: "Remember those old children's stories where the young son goes out on the road for adventure and to make his fortune after he's been cheated out of his inheritance by his evil brothers?" Molly cannot give up on herself, and her determination is what will see her through.

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