Study Guide

King of the Bingo Game

by Ralph Ellison

King of the Bingo Game Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A young black man sits in a movie theater in New York waiting for the featured film to end. He has come to the big northern city from North Carolina but has been unable to find work because he does not have a birth certificate. His wife is ill, and he is hoping to win the bingo game that is played at the end of the feature so that he can take her to a doctor. He has not eaten all day, and the smell of the peanuts that another viewer is eating increases his hunger. Two men near him are drinking liquor, and he wishes that he had some, remembering how people used to share with one another down south. He drifts off to sleep but has a nightmare, which causes him to shout. The men who are drinking ask him to be quiet and offer him some whiskey, which he takes.

After the feature ends, the lights come on, a curtain hides the screen, and an announcer and an attendant come out to preside over the bingo game. Players who get “bingo” climb onto the stage and spin a large wheel by means of an electric switch. If the wheel stops at double zero, a player wins the jackpot, which is now $36.90. The young man plays five bingo cards, wins, and mounts the stage.

He finds being on stage confusing. The lights are blinding, he does not understand the jokes and comments of the announcer, and the crowd laughs at him. Even the smell of the announcer’s hair oil unsettles him. As he presses the button that controls the wheel, he is drawn into its whirl of light and...

(The entire section is 471 words.)

King of the Bingo Game Summary

"King of the Bingo Game" opens with a man sitting in a movie theater watching a movie he has already seen. He is hungry, and he can smell the...

(The entire section is 681 words.)