At the very beginning of Rubyfruit Jungle, Molly declares that she is a “bastard,” and her status as an outsider of sorts affects and influences nearly every aspect of her life: economically because she is poor; politically because she is a female in a man’s world; legally because she has no father; spiritually because she is a bastard child; and emotionally because she is eventually rejected by her adoptive mother, Carrie. Despite being born at a disadvantage, however, Molly never blames herself for her troubles and rarely becomes despondent, even as she encounters hatred, betrayal, and exclusion from society. Instead, she draws on her belief that she is innocent of wrongdoing in order to call up the spiritual defiance, ambition, and courage that help her accomplish her goals. These qualities give Molly a strong sense of self, perhaps her most distinctive characteristic. Her unwavering honesty, pride in being poor, and rejection of Chryssa’s offer to “keep” her all demonstrate her unwillingness to compromise this sense of self. Her refusal or inability to hold on to a lover is most likely a symptom of this ardent sense of independence.

As a woman and individual, Molly is a quadruple threat to those around her: she is beautiful, athletic, highly intelligent, and fiercely funny, and she uses these advantages to pursue her personal goals. She believes in equality for women and for all people, and she distrusts those who seem to condone or endorse the system of inequality she sees around her. This belief sets up many of the conflicts Molly faces as she develops into an adult and aspiring filmmaker. Throughout the novel, Molly must struggle against the institutional and personal prejudices of traditional society in order to fulfill her dreams. Yet she remains optimistic about her eventual success, if not about the rectification of society. Her pluckiness in the face of adversity distinguishes her from the other characters in the novel, and the novel ends on a high note, despite Molly’s professional and personal troubles.