An Examination of Rubyfruit Jungle and Her Critics
Rita Mae Brown's first novel, Rubyfruit Jungle made waves when it was first released in 1973. Its influence has not gone away over the years and is in its seventh printing. While mainstream critics failed to acknowledge Rubyfruit Jungle in their papers, magazines and discussions on contemporary literature, there are plenty of non-mainstream voices to fill the void. While these lesser-known sources are not always credible, and certainly not always accurate they have created a word-of-mouth reputation of the novel and have facilitated its continuous success.
The problem in researching such a novel is that there is very little criticism. One cannot rely on book reviews from unknown magazines and personal websites in order to properly examine secondary sources.
Knowing that there is virtually no critical analysis on Rubyfruit Jungle changes the questions that the novel itself raises, and forces one to examine why this novel was not worthy of discussion. There could be several answers to this mystery, the most obvious being that it was written by and is about a lesbian. America has never fully allowed people to "come out" without reprimand and up until the time of this novel, the only fiction that focused on lesbians emphasized their shame and grief over their sexual identity.
The idea that Rubyfruit Jungle has not been looked at in academic circles simply because it is a novel about a lesbian who feels no shame or guilt about her sexuality is only part of the problem, it is not the only reason why Brown's first novel is not discussed. While Molly Bolt is a lesbian and proud of it, other lesbians are not so proud of her and what she stands for. Rubyfruit Jungle was an opportunity for an unrecognized community to finally have a voice in literature, but the voice of Molly Bolt is not necessarily the one that the lesbian community wants to be represented by. Molly Bolt is amoral and narcissistic. While she breaks the stereotypes of lesbians, she doesn't do much to draw favor to them, or to show them in a realistic, positive light.
Rubyfruit Jungle may have been one of the first novels that featured a lesbian heroine, which might have drawn tons of press and criticism, but perhaps because it was still a negative image of homosexuality brought forth in a new light, it was not the time to jump on it as the winning novel some book reviews have coined it.
Molly Bolt was the only character in the novel to show courage, but she did not show morals, values or strength of character. Her early sexual encounters appeared to be nothing more than childhood stupidity, but Molly never grew out of it. By the end of the book, she still had never had a loving relationship with a woman, and vowed never to settle down with one. At one point she was having an affair with a married woman and her seventeen year old daughter, simply because they were sexually attractive. This shows a great...