Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 4, Chapter 16 | Summary



Even though Molly knows she is not the right sexual partner for Polina, she stays with the relationship for a while but then wants to end it. When she suggests to Polina they go back to being friends, Polina is unwilling. As Molly explains, "It was Alice who resolved the problem." Sophisticated about sexual matters, Alice knows Molly and Paul are her mother's lovers and admits to Molly she has thought about an incestuous affair with her mother. So when Alice asks Molly to sleep with her, Molly complies. However, when Polina discovers the affair she severs all ties between Molly and Alice. The separation causes Molly to take a break from New York City and the weirdness she has experienced there. She hitchhikes to Philadelphia, intent on returning to her roots to see if she can pull herself together.

Back in Shiloh, Molly heads to the house where she and her family lived with the Denmans and down to the pond where she often went as a child to find peace. After communing with nature, Molly goes to Leota's old house. Leota's mother, still living there, tells Molly where to find her daughter, who is now married and the mother of two. When Molly arrives at Leota's home, Leota is waiting for her. She introduces her children, and the two women settle down for what turns out to be an uncomfortable conversation. Leota is living a traditional life and doesn't want to suggest their youthful lovemaking was meaningful. In fact she says Molly needs help for her lesbianism. In Leota's world, homosexuality is not an option.

Molly returns to New York, realizing for her at this time the city is her only home, the place where she can "be more than a breeder of the next generation." She is more willing to live in that "polluted, packed, putrid" place than in a place where she feels no hope of being who she is.


This chapter contains more literary elements than any other in the book. Whereas much of the novel leaves readers laughing out loud, this chapter is harder to read and fully understand. The difficulty begins when Molly describes her dream "of sewer lagoons underneath the skyscrapers" through which she can get "out of this crazy city with its crazy people." Even as she dreams of getting out, she doesn't know where to go from "the Hanging Gardens of Neon" full of people who are "radiated disaster area[s]." That's when she decides to give the foothills of Pennsylvania another chance as a place where she can rest and "lay [her] body down in the meadow ... [where] the smell of clover will get [her] through one more winter in this branch of hell."

When she gets to Shiloh, she finds temporary relief, feeling "higher than orange sunshine could ever get [her]." She goes to the pond as she did when she was a child to think things through. There she has a nearly spiritual encounter with a giant frog, which represents freedom to live naturally as its instincts guide it. She sees this animal as her superior: "That frog doesn't want to make movies. That frog hasn't even seen movies and furthermore that frog doesn't give a big damn. It just swims, eats, makes love, and sings as it pleases." Jealous of its freedom, Molly watches the frog leap straight out of the water and grab a dragonfly. Then she sees it wink at her. Only later will this episode make much sense to readers as the frog comes to represent something more personal in Molly's life.

After Molly has the uncomfortable exchange with Leota, the more literary tone of the narrative returns. Molly says she must retrace her trip "to Babylon on the Hudson," meaning New York City. The reference is to the ancient city of Babylon, mentioned several times in the Bible and always unfavorably. True to that allusion, Molly describes the city in detail as a horrible place where "the air destroys your lungs," where you might get your throat slit, "where millions ... live side by side in rotting honeycombs and never say hello." Despite these negatives, however, it is the only place she knows to go.

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