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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 1 - 1st PROLOGUE
Chapter 1 is written in the style of a school child’s reading book "Here is the house. It is green and white." The reader soon finds it is a Dick and Jane reader, very common in the 1940s and 50s for teaching children not only how to read by using simple sentence structures, but also for teaching children the values of the dominant, European-American culture. The story relates how "Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live" together and are happy together. They have a cat. The mother laughs happily. The father smiles at Jane. They have a playful dog. Jane has a friend who comes to play with her.
The style of a child’s reading book calls forth the reader’s memory of the innocence of childhood, an innocence that should be guarded carefully. Soon, however, we find that the seemingly universal description of a happy family is actually a description of only the lucky few families. In this chapter, the only indication that all is not well is the change Morrison makes graphically in the presentation of the sentences. At the beginning, the sentences are strictly divided by standard punctuation and capitalization. Then, capitalization and punctuation are omitted. Then, all spacing is omitted. Words are run together, giving the effect of a record being played at the wrong speed, giving a distorted sound.
CHAPTER 2 - 2nd PROLOGUE
In the fall of the year 1941, there were no marigolds. Now, no one will talk about this fact. The narrator reports that everyone thought there were no marigolds because Pecola was having her father’s baby. The narrator says she and her sister were too preoccupied to notice that no one’s marigolds grew that year. She and her sister hoped for magic; they hoped if they said the right words over their seeds, everything would be all right with Pecola. When she and her sister realized their seeds would never grow, they blamed each other to keep from feeling guilty.
The narrator compares the planting of marigold seeds in the black dirt to Pecola’s father "dropping his seeds in his own plot of black dirt." Now, Pecola’s father, Cholly Breedlove, is dead and so is the innocence of the narrator and her sister. Pecola’s baby died just as the seeds did. The narrator ends, "There is really nothing more to say--except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how."
Morrison indicates the difference in mood in this chapter typographically just as she did in chapter one. She uses italics for the entire chapter. The narrator here speaks with the voice of the past, of her childhood. She remembers how she and her sister experienced hearing of the rape of Pecola by her father. She and her sister attempted in their child’s logic to counterbalance a crime against nature on one level (incest) with the proper growth of nature on another level (the marigolds). However, "the earth itself was unyielding." Here, Morrison uses the ancient conception of folk wisdom which claims a correspondence between human events and natural events; if something is out of order in the human realm, nature will also seem out of order.