Study Guide

King of the Bingo Game Madness

By Ralph Ellison

Madness

Ask somebody for something, and they'd think you were crazy. (1)

Here the protagonist is referring to the different cultural norms of the North. Someone from outside of the culture would be perceived as crazy. This contributes to his overall feeling of isolation.

Well, I ain't crazy. I'm just broke, 'cause I got no birth certificate to get a job, and Laura 'bout to die 'cause we got no money for a doctor. But I ain't crazy. (1)

Can we take the protagonist at face value here? At what point might we begin to classify him as insane?

Then someone was laughing inside him and he realized that somehow he had forgotten his own name. It was a sad, lost feeling to lose your name, and a crazy thing to do. (66)

The protagonist's self-awareness suggests that he knows he is descending into madness, and actually accepting it.

He felt that the whole audience had somehow entered him and was stamping its feet in his stomach and he was unable to throw them out. They wanted the prize, that was it. They wanted the prize for themselves. (74)

The protagonist seems to be insane at this point. These lines appear to be the ramblings of a deluded man.

The last voice was not unfriendly, and he turned and smiled dreamily into the yelling mouths. Then he turned his back squarely on them. (47)

This marks the protagonist's deliberate rejection of the crowd. But is this a sane or insane act?