Social Concerns / Themes

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 548

Perhaps chief among the social concerns of Bingo is what Brown's narrator and main character Nicole calls her "Blue Dot theory." According to the theory, if all women in the world who had experimented with homosexual love were to awaken with blue dots on their foreheads, most of us would...

(The entire section contains 548 words.)

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Perhaps chief among the social concerns of Bingo is what Brown's narrator and main character Nicole calls her "Blue Dot theory." According to the theory, if all women in the world who had experimented with homosexual love were to awaken with blue dots on their foreheads, most of us would have them. The intensity of the blue, however, would indicate the depth of the lesbian inclination of each woman. Nicole speculates that her dot would be deep aqua and goes on to demonstrate through an affair with her best friend's husband that, avowed lesbian that she is, she is capable of heterosexual love. According to Nicole's theory — and, one presumes, Brown's — most women fall along a continuum somewhere between navy blue (absolutely homosexual) and no dots at all (absolutely heterosexual).

Closely allied with that theory is Brown's enthusiastic optimism about people's ability to care for each other despite sexual slights and oversights or long-running feuds. In her fictional town of Runnymede — bisected by the Mason-Dixon line — Brown paints a world of acceptance and forgiveness where underlying human affection overcomes the sexual battles that would destroy relationships in a less idealized setting. Nicole's most beloved friend Regina forgives her husband and her friend their affair, regretting only that she was not told. Her octogenarian mother and aunt, friendly enemies from an early age, forgive each other their rivalry over the handsome new male retiree in town. The town forgives and continues to love the two Southern males who, on a drunken toot, use the Civil War cannon in the park to wreck the office of a Yankee lawyer who takes the unpopular side in a local dispute. Nobody in Runnymede is capable of holding a grudge, and apparently evil people are only misinformed or not very bright.

When she wrote Rubyfruit Jungle (1973), Brown was a radical lesbian feminist. In each succeeding novel and in her private life, she has retreated more and more from this or any extreme position. In this book, Nicole — whom, one suspects, serves as Brown's alter ego — is a traditional political liberal intent on a message of tolerance and respect for individual inclinations. Always a respecter of age, the older Brown gets, the more she emphasizes that her fictional culture is a mixture of ages, sexual orientations, economic strata, religions, and social stations. In Runnymede, particularly at the weekly bingo games, all these groups interact as equals. Even so, African Americans are among the few Southerners not portrayed in Brown's contemporary fiction.

One other social concern deserves mention. The main plot of Bingo develops when the local newspaper for which Nicole works is sold to a buyer who will make it into a second-rate affiliate of a national chain rather than the excellent local paper it has been. Nicole is worried about her job, but even more she is concerned with the influence that commercial interests will have on the absolute editorial freedom she and the other journalists have enjoyed. And she is dismayed by the fact that the traditional presses will be replaced with computer-generated print that will further erode the autonomy of the paper — and put some traditional craftsmen out of work. The erosion of local autonomy and increasing centralization of the press is another contemporary trend that Brown attacks in this book.

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