Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“King of the Bingo Game” is written in a naturalistic style and from a third-person, limited point of view. The first technique reinforces the gritty, realistic quality of the story, and the second puts the reader in the place of the protagonist and helps the reader to experience the confusion that he feels.

A naturalistic style dictates that a writer describe the physical reality of a scene, such as the first detail noted in the story, the smell of the peanuts that makes the protagonist hungry. Throughout the story, physical details predominate—the feeling of whiskey moving through the protagonist’s body, the blinding lights, the odor of the announcer’s hair oil, all compel the reader to see, feel, and even smell what the protagonist is experiencing.

The third-person, limited point of view conveys information about the story as it is seen by only one person, but allows Ellison to use language that that character himself would not use, unlike the first-person point of view, in which the vocabulary of the story must be that of the main character. The use of this technique means that the reader experiences the same feelings of bewilderment and excitement that the protagonist does, but they are presented in language more vivid than he himself might use. Because the protagonist does not feel himself to be a part of the world that he inhabits, the movie house, its patrons, and the procedure of the bingo game are a welter of disconnected...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Race in the South
Ralph Ellison was born in Oklahoma City, and during his childhood he encountered opposition from the city's...

(The entire section is 667 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

Narration and Point of View
"King of the Bingo Game" utilizes a third-person narrator who is inside the consciousness of the...

(The entire section is 585 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1944: Many Southern black Americans move North in what is known as the "Great Migration" in an attempt to secure jobs.


(The entire section is 142 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Research the ''Great Migration'' of African Americans from the South to the large Northern cities in the 1930s and 1940s. How does the...

(The entire section is 115 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Invisible Man, Ellison's only published novel, is one of the acknowledged classics of twentieth-century fiction. Published in 1952 and...

(The entire section is 131 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Deutsch, Leonard J. "Ralph Ellison," in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 2. American Novelists since...

(The entire section is 116 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

De Santis, Christopher C. “’Some Cord of Kinship Stronger and Deeper than Blood’: An Interview with John F. Callahan, Editor of Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth.African American Review 34, no. 4 (2000): 601-621.

Hersey, John. Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Hobson, Christopher Z. “Ralph Ellison, Juneteenth, and African American Prophecy.” MFS: Modern Fiction Studies 51, no. 3 (2005): 617-647.

Jackson, Lawrence. Ralph Ellison: Emergence of Genius. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.

McSweeney, Kerry. “Invisible Man”: Race and Identity. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988.

Nadel, Alan. “Ralph Ellison and the American Canon.” American Literary History 13, no. 2 (2001): 393-404.

Porter, Horace A. Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.

Warren, Kenneth. So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Watts, Jerry Gafio. Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-American Intellectual Life. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

Yuins, E. “Artful Juxtaposition on the Page: Memory Perception and Cubist Technique in Ralph Ellison’s Juneteenth.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association 119, no. 5 (October, 2004): 1247.