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Ralph Ellison’s King of the Bingo Game

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Modernism and King of the Bingo Game


Ralph Ellison’s King of the Bingo Game illustrates ideals of the time period referred to as Modernism. These include traits such as describing the inner workings of the mind or the dream world, searching for new perspectives, and having a pessimistic outlook on life.

Ellison demonstrates the concept of a dream-like world in his story when the protagonist is up on the stage, with the control in his hand. The character is intoxicated, which creates a hallucination-filled, surreal world. Also, Ellison portrays this character as having the wheel over-power him, and take control of him. He creates his own world, a dream world, one where he has the power, and is no longer oppressed; a world where he is like God. This gives him a new perspective on life. He can forget about all his worries that his life has brought him. He is now the one calling the shots, which is a different view of life for this character.

This story also portrays the pessimism felt by the people at this time. At this time in history, the world had just suffered the worst war in the history of man-kind up to that date. Also, the United States had not that long ago gone through the Civil War to free men from the oppression of slavery. However, some felt that the freedom the slaves were given had led to more oppression in the northern, industrial states that paid poorly for the jobs they held, in effect a new form of slavery. This era was the age of war. Not only was it an era of war, but also a time of great extremes. There were the very rich and wealthy people, and there were the very poor and poverty-stricken people, a middle class had not really been established at this point in time. The poor had little to hope for and their plight in life was beyond their control. A dream world was a way for them to escape the sorrows of their lives, perhaps the only way for many. Soon to come would be the biggest war in the history of man, World War II. King of the Bingo Game reflects this pessimism. The main character himself lives a life many would consider depressing. He lives a life of poverty, he is starving, and his wife is suffering from an illness that is putting her near death. The story also does not end very happily; the reader is led to believe that the protagonist dies.

The modernist era is yet another time period that has had some common themes that are reflected within the arts of the time. King of the Bingo Game is one of those works of art that strongly shows the ideals of the time.

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