King of the Bingo Game
by Ralph Ellison
King of the Bingo Game Theme of Fate and Free Will
"King of the Bingo Game" deals with the issue of fate through the lens of race. The protagonist is a downtrodden African-American man who feels as though he has been finally given the opportunity to control his own destiny. This rapidly unravels, however. "King of the Bingo Game" raises the issue of how well a man can control his own destiny in an unfair system.
Questions About Fate and Free Will
- Why do you think the line "everything was fixed" comes relatively early in the novel? Does it help set up the later events or detract from them?
- Why does the protagonist want the wheel to continue spinning? Why can't he let go?
- What do you make of this passage? "Didn't they know that although he controlled the wheel, it also controlled him, and unless he pressed the button forever and forever and ever it would stop, leaving him high and dry, dry and high on this hard high slippery hill and Laura dead?" (65)
- How does the movie at the beginning affect your understanding of the story? You might want to think about a movie as the ultimate example of a fixed and fated system.
Chew on This
The movie suggests that the protagonist is doomed from the start – if "everything is fixed," it really doesn't matter that he attempts to alter his destiny vis-à-vis the bingo wheel.