Rubyfruit Jungle | Study Guide

Rita Mae Brown

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Rubyfruit Jungle | Book 4, Chapter 17 | Summary



Molly becomes immune to the city upon her return, going about life with an air of indifference and hanging in to finish her senior year in film school. When her professor asks about her senior project—a short film she must produce—she tells him again how hard it is to get the equipment and people to cooperate with her on a crew. He comments snidely about the males in the class not wanting to take orders from a woman and indifferently wishes her "good luck on your film."

So Molly takes a camera without checking it out, steals some film, and catches a bus to Fort Lauderdale, intent on seeing her mother for the first time in six years. She has decided her film will be a stark, 20-minute monologue by Carrie in which Molly will try to capture "one woman's life."

Carrie welcomes Molly home, crying because she is so happy to see her. But within the first minute, she is already declaring Molly cannot think of "laying back there in that bedroom with naked women." When Molly asks if she will help with her senior project, Carrie answers, "Not if it costs me money," adding a barb about how long it has taken Molly to get to her senior year. But Carrie does finally let Molly film her while they talk as long as Molly buys her own food.

Molly learns Florence has died and Leroy is married with two children. Although Carrie is apparently dying from cancer, she will not accept "handouts." She takes in ironing, has a small social security check each month, and is on Medicare. When it seems the end is near for her, she plans to walk into the ocean so no one will have to take care of her. When Carrie complains about how long Molly has been away and how little she has written to her, Molly reminds her she told her she wasn't her child and was "glad of it." Carrie vehemently denies those words, claiming she would never say them and she loves Molly, "all I got in this world."

Carrie films her mother rocking and talking for a week. She also does chores for her, runs errands, and spends some time with Leroy, who brings his wife, Joyce, and the children over for a visit. Leroy joined the Marines, went to Vietnam, and married Joyce because he got her pregnant. He says they are pretty happy but admits "it gets boring," and lets Molly know he longs for freedom. He is fairly unperturbed by Molly's sexual orientation.

On the day Molly leaves to return to New York City, Carrie gets a burst of energy. As she bustles around, she reveals to Molly details about her life. She describes Molly's biological father: a handsome, athletic, full-blooded Frenchman named Jean-Pierre. When he impregnated Ruby, he abandoned her because he was married. Carl and Carrie knew Ruby, so Carl arranged things so Jean-Pierre would never try to connect with his daughter when they adopted her. Carrie also reveals she was married before Carl to an abusive man named Rup, and Carl cheated on her with a woman named Gladys. She says she was heartbroken by that affair and was not "right in the head" for a while because of it.

Then Carrie advises Molly to "go out there and marry some man and he'll keep you. You'll have money then." Molly points out the flawed logic, but Carrie doesn't want to hear it. She gets weepy again as she tells Molly how sorry she is to have nothing to give her and how much she worries about Molly's working so hard. "Don't hate me, honey," she says. Molly's reply is simple: "Mom, I don't hate you. We're different people, strongwilled people. We don't always see eye to eye. That's why we fought so much." Carrie again declares her love for Molly and swears she never said she didn't want her as a daughter. Molly says, "I love you too." Then it is time to go.


Molly's trip back home to Carrie could not have been easy for her. She did not know how she would be received, and the way she is received has to be a pleasant surprise. Still, it's hard to forget the brutal words her mother said to her six years ago. Molly's demeanor toward her mother is actually deferential throughout the visit as compared with the way she challenged Carrie as a child. She has only a few moments when she feels like speaking out against her mother's words, but she mostly refrains. It's clear Molly realizes how much she loves her mother, finding it difficult to explain the conflicting emotions: "Even when I hated her, I loved her ... maybe underneath her crabshell of prejudice and fear there's a human being that's loving. I don't know but either way I love her."

Finding out the details about her unknown father must also be a big relief to Molly. According to Carrie, much of Molly comes from her father: her "sharp features and dark eyes," her "dreaminess and being an artist," her way of talking with her hands, her great coordination and athletic skills. When Carrie calls Jean-Pierre a frog (a pejorative term for a Frenchman), readers should make the connection back to the incident Molly experiences with the frog at the pond in Shiloh. Maybe she can be like that frog, true to herself and focused on keeping her life as uncomplicated as possible. Maybe that frog is her father winking at her, telling her to let go of all of her angst. In addition, Leroy's apparent acceptance of her lifestyle must make her feel as though she does have a family after all.

When Carrie talks about Carl's affair and his plea that she try to understand people can love more than one person at a time, it is the one opportunity Molly takes to express her own viewpoint. She says, "I'm sorry, Mom, but, well, it doesn't make sense to me to stay with only one person either." Carl was always her kindred spirit, and perhaps now she understands why.

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