(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Rubyfruit Jungle is Rita Mae Brown’s first work and Molly Bolt is easily her most exuberant character. Molly learns two valuable lessons as an enterprising seven-year-old capitalist. Society prefers its sex-related industries to be nonprofit, and the children of sexual transgressors suffer in equal measure with their progenitors. As the adopted offspring of a sexual outlaw, Molly is expected to express obsequious gratitude for any crumbs of approval that fall her way.

Molly, however, accepts nothing on sufferance, meeting disapproval with confrontation rather than acquiescence. Unfortunately, each victory over the intolerance or prejudice makes her need for approval from the people she vanquishes all the stronger. Molly can never truly please anyone, particularly her mother, and her father’s death deprives her of the only reliable source of emotional support.

Still, Molly continues to pursue an independent course. Once pubescent sexuality makes its appearance, Molly discovers she prefers women to men. For some, that realization would be devastating, for Molly it is a matter of little concern. Love, in Molly’s world, is love and thus to be cherished, irrespective of the gender. Molly is not given to categorization or recognizing the validity of roles assigned by society and tradition, a circumstance which bodes ill for a Florida resident in 1960.

Faced with a society organized and delineated by the need of one race to...

(The entire section is 409 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Molly Bolt at the age of seven is already tough and lively. She had taught herself to read at the age of three and is brighter and more assertive than most children in Coffee Hollow, Pennsylvania. When a classmate, “Broccoli” Detwiler, urinates in front of her, she notices that his penis looks different from others she had seen (he was not circumcised), and she soon decides they could make money by showing it off to classmates after school for a nickel a look. The project is a big hit, and Molly realizes that money conveys power and popularity. Little Earl Stambach tells the teacher and the teacher contacts Molly’s parents. Molly’s mother, Carrie, angrily berates Molly for thinking she is clever, belittling her further by yelling that Molly is not even her daughter, that she is a bastard. Molly’s response is immediate: “I don’t care. It makes no difference where I came from. I’m here, ain’t I?”

Molly continues to live by this principle of self-assertion throughout her life. She learns to accomplish her goals in whatever way necessary, whether or not that means following the restrictive views of others. She retaliates against Earl’s tattling by tricking him into eating rabbit droppings he thinks are raisins and then blackmailing him into ceasing to tattle against her.

Leroy Denman is Molly’s cousin and close friend. When his mother dies of cancer, Molly realizes that Leroy’s family, and her own family, had built its views on a rigid standard that does not actually fit the actions of family members. Except for her father, Carl, most of the extended family tries to ignore realities that do not match their pretended standards of human behavior. After the funeral, Carl hugs the grieving husband in sympathy, yet this sympathy contradicts the American social custom that men should not hug other men. Molly knows that there are times when rules need to be broken.

School and home life provide Molly with many opportunities to learn about hypocrisy and how to circumvent rules. During a Christmas play in which Molly had been assigned the role of the Virgin Mary, a snobbish classmate improvises through the presentation to give herself a larger role. Molly ends up kicking her off the stage, much to the shocked delight of the audience. At home, when Carrie decides that Molly is too much of a tomboy and insists she stay indoors and do household chores, Molly retaliates by locking Carrie in the cellar. Molly considers such actions necessary to preserve her independence and her right to be herself.

When Molly is in the sixth grade, she develops a crush on her friend, Leota B. Bisland. They spend time together after school kissing each other, and one night at Leota’s house they learn that...

(The entire section is 1122 words.)