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Social Concerns / Themes

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Ellison's first novel Rumble is a violent revenge fantasy based on material he gathered after joining a Brooklyn street gang in the late 1950s. As an evocation of the brutality and excitement of street-life, the novel succeeds and Memos from Purgatory fairly well, and the protagonist, Rusty Santoro, is a reasonably credible, if one-dimensional, character. However, intense although it is, Rumble lacks insight into the psychology of its characters, and, therefore, their victimization by an inhumane, depersonalized society is not very profoundly expressed. Rumble seems to be merely a violent tour de force, which focuses on the repellent details of the gang's everyday existence. In short, Ellison's first novel reveals little sense of meaningful human action, suffering or transcendence.

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