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Rubyfruit Jungle | Motifs


Language Shifts as Mood Cues

Molly's grammar and the use of tense in the narration shift throughout the novel. These shifts help readers identify her mood and assign the correct level of importance to events.

When she lapses into the present tense, Molly feels deeply about what she is describing. For example, in Book 1, Chapter 1, when Molly runs into the woods after her mother tells her she is a bastard, she presents her thoughts in present tense. She is deeply upset by what her mother has said to her, of course, and it remains as hurtful as it did back then.

When Molly reverts to the cursing and bad grammar of her early years, she is drawing a firm line in the sand in terms of her unwillingness to compromise herself or her integrity. She chooses to use good grammar when the family moves to Fort Lauderdale because she realizes proper English will make her more acceptable and therefore more likely to reach a position of power she wants. However, this choice contradicts her belief of being true to oneself, so when she most needs to remind herself of this truth, she slips back into bad grammar. For example, in Book 2, Chapter 6, when Molly is trying to impress upon Leroy the importance of not worrying about what others think and not to conform, she curses and uses nonstandard English—"I ain't stupid"—as she passionately expresses herself on this issue.

Role-Play versus Genuine Self

Although Molly's main wish is that everyone can feel comfortable being himself or herself, early on she recognizes the fun and safety to be had with role-playing—as well as the things she can get for herself when necessary. When she and Leroy are in the Christmas play in sixth grade, they talk about how fun it is to dress up and wear makeup; they even plan to run away and become famous actors. Then when she gets to Florida and observes what she must do to "take care of myself in this new situation," Molly decides to embrace the role of class clown and to carefully dress in "a few good things from a better store." In order to "cinch Latin" in high school, she and Connie breathe onions in order to cry in exactly the same place the Latin teacher cries while reading the Aeneid. Later, in New York while working for Silver Publishing, Molly dresses like a secretary in order to keep a decent job.

Clearly, Molly is not above pretending to be someone she is not, but she always draws the line when it comes to sexuality. She's truly angry at Leroy for being too scared to experiment with homosexuality. She hates Holly's willingness to be a "kept woman" so that she can live an easy lifestyle. She is completely repelled by the needs of Paul Digita and Polina Bellantoni to engage in role-play in order to be sexually fulfilled.

Similarly, Molly refuses to act like a woman and make the choices expected of women of the time—whether that involves marriage, type of career pursued, or a willingness to conform in any way to such societal pressures. The cynic in her works the system in many ways, but she truly cannot compromise the essence of who she is—and she thinks people who can do that are weak and mostly worthless.

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