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King of the Bingo Game

King of the Bingo Game


by Ralph Ellison

Analysis: Writing Style


Ellison was really into music (especially jazz), and his literary efforts tend to be inspired by the musical form. Jazz has a long-standing tradition of drawing on different styles to create a full piece of music notable for irregular beats, improvisation, and syncopation.

So how does it connect with "King of the Bingo Game"? That's really a question for you, but we'll point out that the story begins in a relatively realistic fashion. A hungry guy sits in a theatre and wants some of his neighbor's peanuts. As Ellison crafts the story, however, notice that he occasionally includes words like "swoller," "reet," and "holt," peppering the story with an authentic voice. At the same time, the story veers away from realism and sinks deep into surrealism, with long forays into the protagonist's consciousness. Especially check out paragraph 79, where the protagonist enters into a lengthy dream sequence.

Are you getting our point now? Go back through the story and see if you can discern a rhythm. And then, the next time you read Ellison, put on some jazz and see if it changes the experience. Just a little tip from us to you.

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