Ralph Ellison's "King of the Bingo Game" is a fascinating story that depicts the harsh reality of a black man in the depression era. The story illustrates how the protagonist faced culture shock in the North because he constantly referred to his home "down South." The main character in "King of the Bingo Game" is black, broke, dislocated because he is from the South, hungry, unemployed, and burdened by personal responsibilities. In the story, characters think that he is crazy but his action are motivated by his perception of the bingo game.
"King of the Bingo Game" is about a young black man, who was nameless throughout the story. He cannot find work because he has no birth certificate. Motivated by his wife's urgent need for medical care, he visits a movie theatre where he participates in a bingo game, hoping to win it by keeping more than one card. Surprisingly he wins and has a chance to spin the wheel of fortune for his prize. As a winner of the card game, he is given a chance at a jackpot of $36.90, which he can win by spinning the bingo wheel and having it land on double zero. .
Surprised and frightened to be on stage, he plans to give the wheel "a short quick twirl" to make it stop at double zero. He rationalizes by saying that it always "came close to double zero when it was short and quick." Suddenly, everything changes. The wheel has becomes much more than a device to decide whether the protagonist will win the prize. He suddenly realizes that "as long as he presses the button, he can control the jackpot. He and only he can determine whether or not it was to be his." At first, he was drawn to the bingo hall for a shot at fast money and a better future. In stead, he feels that the bingo game is his life and that wheel determines his life. Consequently, he tries to keep the wheel running forever. In a grand gesture, he refuses to relinquish the cord and button that control the wheel.