The forest is where Molly’s early childhood business with Broccoli and sexual adventures with Leota take place, and it represents a wilderness of possibility for Molly, a setting in which she may experiment with impunity. In this light, the forest suggests Molly’s spiritual freedom. At the same time, it also suggests the dark and frightening feelings of loneliness Molly experiences when she runs away from home in the first chapter. Frightened by the chilly dark of the woods, Molly realizes she cannot support herself alone in the world and decides to return to her house.
In the South, Molly fails to find tolerance for her sexuality, and from a distance, the city suggests the hope and possibility of success and freedom. Faye’s final letter to Molly after they have been broken up exhorts Molly to find a city so that she may live freely. Molly takes Faye’s advice, realizing she’ll succeed only in a place where she can find acceptance for her lesbianism. When Molly finally arrives in the city, however, it winds up representing something entirely different: the false promise of the American dream. Instead of finding unbridled opportunities and a network of friends, Molly encounters a legion of impediments to her goals. The city itself becomes one of the forces Molly must strive against in order to achieve success.
The drainpipes in Rubyfruit Jungle suggest the birth canal leading back to the womb of Molly’s childhood, when she led a more innocent, idyllic life. Molly mentions drainpipes the first time when she dreams of leaving the hell of New York by sewer to return to warm and peaceful Fort Lauderdale. She mentions them again when she crawls through an old drainpipe during her trip back to her Pennsylvania hometown. In each reference, Molly reveals her metaphoric desire to move back in time to the places where she has felt most secure.
Polina, Paul, and Mr. Bellantoni
Through their areas of professional specialization, Polina, Paul, and Mr. Bellantoni suggest the intellectual bankruptcy of modern life and academics. As university professors, they are highly educated and in positions to contribute to the discussion of meaningful themes of existence. Instead, they fritter away their considerable talents on minutia, such as Polina’s study of Babylonian underpants and Mr. Bellantoni’s study of the representation of cows in Western art.