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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
WINTER - CHAPTER 7
This chapter opens with the section of the Dick and Jane primer about the cat Dick and Jane play with.
It opens with an omniscient narrator describing the places young women in the African-American community of Lorain come from. The sounds of the names of these towns--Akron, Mobile, Meridian, Nagadoches--remind the listener of love, kisses, and butterflies. Not many people say the name of their home town with such love. For most, the home town is just a place one was born. "But these girls soak up the juice of their home towns, and it never leaves them." They are narrow, tall, and still like hollyhocks.
These are a special kind of woman, raised in a very careful way. They do not stand out. They do everything in the usual and proper way. They go to land-grant colleges and normal schools. They learn to "do the white manís work with refinement." They study home economics, teacher education, music and especially they learn how to behave, "how to get rid of funkiness." They learn to reign in all signs of funkiness from holding their buttocks in to laughing too loudly.
Men who marry women like this know all their domestic needs will be met with rigor and efficiency. They do not know that this kind of woman will make her nest and make it an inviolable world, even from their husbands. They will only have sex when necessary and never give themselves to sexual pleasure freely. On occasion, this kind of woman will become attached to a living thing, often a cat, whose sensuality she can enjoy with circumspection. Her cat will be first in her affections, even above her child.
One such woman was named Geraldine. She married Louis and moved to Lorain, Ohio where she kept house and had a child, Louis Junior. She met Juniorís physical needs, but not his emotional needs. He noticed that her attentions always were spent on her cat and he began to hate the cat and try to torture it when left alone with it. They lived next door to Washington Irving School and Junior claimed the playground as his own. He played with white kids and the right kind of African-American kids. His mother had taught him the distinction between "colored people and niggers." "Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud." He knew he belonged to the former category, but sometimes he found the dividing line hard to distinguish.
Junior once longed to play with other black boys. He wanted to play King of the Mountain with them and get pushed down so he would roll down with other boys and feel their "hardness pressing on him, smell their wild blackness, and say ĎFuck youí with that lovely casualness." At one time he idolized Bay Boy and P.L., but soon came to realize they were not good enough for him. He moved on to Ralph Nisensky, but Ralph didnít want to do anything. Then he found fun in bullying girls as they came by through the playground. He did not pick on "nigger girls" because they beat him up.
One day he saw Pecola pass by and noticed her because she was ugly. He called her over and told her he had kittens to show her in his house. When she got inside, he threw his motherís black cat at her and the cat scratched Pecolaís face trying to get away. Before he had thrown the cat, Pecola was in shock at the beauty of the house and its furnishings. While she was crying, the cat rubbed her legs and Pecola began to rub it and admire its blue eyes. Junior grabbed the cat away and started slinging it around by its leg. She got it loose from him but it was thrown against the window and slid down on the radiator unconscious. Just at that moment, Juniorís mother came home and Junior blamed the catís supposed death on Pecola. His mother saw in Pecola all that she had been running from all her life. She called the little girl a "nasty little black bitch" and ordered her out of the house. As Pecola stumbled out the door she saw Jesus standing there with long brown hair and paper flowers around his face.
This chapter breaks the unity of the novel by introducing another set of characters who influence Pecolaís life. Geraldine is what is called color-struck. She believes in a strict hierarchy of worth based on skin color with the colors closest to white being esteemed the best. She has adopted a strict code of respectability, often used by working-class people to emulate the middle-class lifestyle. This code involves denying the bodyís pleasures, keeping the home sacrosanct, imposing a distance between oneís own group and those people one notch lower on the hierarchy of class and color. Geraldine has raised a son who acts out the cruelty of an unloved existence on those weaker than he is. In Junior, Morrison demonstrates the linkage between racist oppression and gender oppression. Not surprisingly, Pecola is on the very bottom of social estimation, lower even than a blue-eyed black cat. The figure of Jesus she sees at the end of the chapter will make his appearance later in the novel as Soaphead Church.