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King of the Bingo Game

King of the Bingo Game


by Ralph Ellison

King of the Bingo Game Theme of Isolation

"King of the Bingo Game" features a protagonist who experiences intense isolation. He is set apart from the other participants in the game both culturally and emotionally. As the story progresses, he is also set apart from them for his incredible revelation that he is unable to share. By the end of the story, we understand his isolation as operating both from a position of power and from a position of powerlessness. For, despite knowing this wonderful secret, the protagonist is only one man; he is ineffectual against the bigger system.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Why does the protagonist feel isolated once he is on stage?
  2. How is the protagonist treated by other characters in the story (the audience, the bingo caller, etc.)? Are they unified in their opinion of him or are there a variety views?
  3. We see the protagonist as isolated from several of perspectives: culturally, emotionally, mentally, and physically (as he is on stage under the lights). Which is the most compelling? How do they integrate to completely isolate him?
  4. The protagonist wants to share his great secret with the world, the secret of how to win. What exactly is he alluding to? Why does he want to share it with everyone else?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The bingo caller fails to recognize the protagonist as a person.

The protagonist tries his best to reach out to others in the bingo hall.

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