Spring, Section 1   Leave a comment

When spring arrives, Claudia spends a long time laying in the grass. When she gets home, she finds Frieda crying, and finds out Mr. Henry touched Frieda’s breasts, and was chased away by her parents. Frieda worries about being ruined like the prostitutes, and the girls think they stay skinny by drinking whiskey. When they fo to Pecolas house to see if she can get them some, since Cholly is always drunk, no one is home. The Maginot Line told them Pecola was with her mother at work, so they decide to walk there. They arrive at a beautiful neighborhood whose playground is for white children only, and they are told by Mr.s Breedlove that they can wait for Pecola and walk home with her. Inside the house, a little white girl calls for Polly, which makes Claudia angry since even Pecola calls her mother ‘Mrs. Breedlove.’ Pecola accidentally knock over a fresh pie, burning herself and earning a beating from her mother. Mrs. Breedlove furiously sends the girls away and comforts the little girl who lives at the house.

Frieda is ignorant and confused at her experience, but sexuality was forced upon her by an adult. She depends on her parents reactions to understand what happened. The girls also understand that the Maginot Line is ‘ruined’ but not why, and why her mother is repulsed to her. They guess that it is because she is fat, which is what they don’t lie about her. They also guess that the other two prostitutes ar skinny because they drink whisky, which is something they learned from their mother. They decide that the only way to keep Frieda from being ruined is to keep her skinny, which can be done by drinking whiskey. This shows an entire chain of mistaken reasoning, based on their mothers gossip. However, this situation is very different from Pecola’s, because Friedas parents were quick to protect her, while Cholly did just the opposite to Pecola.

The ‘white’ neighborhood emphasises the connection between race and class. Inside the house the racial connections continue, with the little white girls dressed neatly and delicately, while Pecola is covered in hot berry juice, connecting whiteness with cleanliness. Mrs. Breedlove recognizes that her race is not respected when she slaps Pecola into the pie juice and cleans off the little white girls instead of checking Pecola’s burn. When asked who the girls were, Mrs. Breedlove avoids answering, thus saying Pecola is her daughter. By doing this and staying to make another pie, Mrs. Breedlove chooses her employers over her family.

Posted April, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

Geraldine (and the women like her)   Leave a comment

5

That’s how many pages were used to describe this type of woman, but no specific name was used until after five pages of description. Basically, she (not one woman, but a type of woman) is very pretty and she comes from a small and pretty town where everyone is employed and probably housed. She takes good care of herself, and she accepts that a black woman during this time is supposed to serve white people, so she goes to a school to learn how and does both with politeness. She never has a boyfriend, but ends up marrying a man who will take of himself and his family. She bears a child, “easily and painlessly.” Up until this point, the description has been positive, but it also makes a point to say that she is not quite average, and not quite above-average. it says “their voices are clear and steady, [yet] they ar never picked to solo.” There is a paragraph that describes her as wanting to be more average. She fights down a ‘funk,’ “the funkiness of passion…nature…[and] the wide range of human emotions.” They avoid loud laughter, sloppy speech, over-gesturing, lips too full, and frizzy hair.

With “what they (their potential husbands) do not know is that this plain brown girl…” the description turns negative, or at least not positive. She is a too strict with her home. She does not enjoy sex. She doesn’t love her family as much as she loves the cat, which is as neat and quiet as she is. She caresses and cuddles the cat in a way that she refuses to caress or cuddle her family.

Specifically, Geraldine. She married a man named Louis and had a son named Junior, who she took excellent care of, but she still loved the cat more. In response, Junior abused the cat, who survived only because Geraldine stayed home more often than she left. Junior was only allowed to play with white children and ‘colored people,’ who were just neat and quiet black children. Junior often threw gravel and rocks at girls who passed by or anyone who wouldn’t play with him. One day, he noticed Pecola walking through the playground alone, so he decided to mess with her. He told her he had kittens, and she could come see them and even have one. For the following paragraph, we see Pecola’s perspective. She sees two rooms, bit very beautiful, colorful, and neat. Junior threw the cat in her face, and she was scratched. Junior blocked the door when she tried to run out, from the outside, but when she stopped crying to pet the cat, he got angry at it. The ended up killing the cat just before Geraldine returned, and blamed it on Pecola. Geraldine calls her a “nasty little black [girl],” and she leaves just as snow starts falling.

We can learn from Geraldine that although she appears sweet and pretty on the outside, we come to hate her at the end of the chapter because she doesn’t love her son and she curses at Pecola, because she isn’t really all that sweet. Also, even though Geraldine-type women can be successful, they end up willingly serving white people. Everything they do, the cleanliness and orderliness, is to get rid of the ‘funk.’ She hates most black people, including herself, and all poor people. These two things are associated with each other, just like whiteness is associate with cleanliness. Geraldine should hate racism and that racism makes her suppress disorderly parts of herself. She instead puts this hatred on her family, and puts the affection she would have put on them she puts on the cat. Junior hates the cat and his mother for this, and he puts his hatred on Pecola and other children at the playground.

I also noticed that both Pecola and the cat are described as very black and all black, but the cat has blue eyes, and the cat is loved over the people in the household. If Pecola knows that the cat is most loved, this will continue her want for blue eyes, translating into everyone loving her.

Posted April, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

Maureen   Leave a comment

In this chapter (the first chapter of the Winter section), we are introduced to Maureen. Claudia says that “Frieda and I were bemused, irritated, and fascinated by her.” They felt like they should find a flaw, and they were happy to find out she had a ‘dog tooth’ and had been born with an extra finger on each hand. One day, Maureen decides to walk part of the way home with Freida and Claudia. While the girls take off the extra layers they had on on a surprisingly warm day, they noticed a group of boys harassing Pecola Breedlove, and they had made up a rhyme that taunted her skin color and the rumor that her father sleeps naked. Claudia seems to understand that it doesn’t matter that the boys were black and their fathers “had similarly relaxed habits,” but that really that made the insult worse, since they hated themselves along with Pecola. Frieda runs up and hits one boy on the head, and Claudia quickly joins in to save Pecola, but once Maureen runs up, they decide it wouldn’t be right to beat up these three other girls while she was watching. Maureen is kind to Pecola, which surprises the other two girls, and they start to hate her a little less. Maureen makes an offer to buy ice cream, but she ends up only buying for Pecola, and of course, Claudia and Frieda don’t have any money. While they walk, Maureen asks Pecola if she’d ever seen a naked man, to which she replies no, a little surprised, and she says she wouldn’t want to see her father naked, since that’s dirty. Maureen says she didn’t ask about her father, she asked about anyone, and she doesn’t seem to want to let it go that Pecola said her father, specifically. Claudia jumps at the chance to be angry at Maureen, and they start arguing about whether or not Maureen is boy-crazy. Maureen ends it by calling them black and ugly. The girls shout insults after her until they can no longer see her bright green socks. Pecola, of course, accepts this as true, and Claudia describes Maureens parting words as wise and accurate. At home, Mr. Henry gives the girls money for icecream, but they go to the candy store instead, to avoid Maureen. This brings them home earlier than Mr. Henry expected, and they see that he has invited the prostitutes over, and the girls know their other hates these women. When they ask Mr. Henry about them, he says they are in his bible study group. The girls know he is lying, of course, but decide to not tell their mother because they like Mr. Henry.

Maureen’s presence confirms the assumptions the society in this book make, mainly that whiteness is required for beauty and blackness makes ugliness. Maureen is black, but she is lighter than the other black children in her school, so she is prettier according to their rules. She also much wealthier than the other black children.

(whatever flowers symbolize in this novel, they reapear here. As Maureen runs away from the girls after they argue, she is described as having legs like danelion plants that lost their heads. )

Maureen talks about a movie where a girl rejects her black mother, but regrets it at her mother funeral. Maureens mother has seen the movie four times herself, and Maureen wants to see it next time she can. She clearly enjoys the dramatic story, and it may be a reflection of her relationship with her mother, which would explain why her mother enjoys the movie so much, too. This movie also shows how racism has saturated society so that it can be easily missed but still found in a movie or a milk glass (Shirley Temple cup).

Maureen also talks to the girls about menstruation, babies, and naked men, showing that these children are close to the age where they will start to mature, and soon after become adults. Pecola acts very defensive about her father nakedness, foreshadowing what happens later, namely when she has her fathers baby.

Posted March, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

The Breedloves   Leave a comment

     Here, the narrator announces that the Breedloves live in the storefront because they are poor and black, and they stay there because they think that they are ugly. They had shapely lips that drew attention to the face, and there you thought that they were ugly but you couldn’t tell why until you saw that they are ugly because they think they are ugly. This is a hint of what I thought the novel would be about at first glance, self-acceptance. If the Breedloves would be a little more confident, they would be a lot more attractive.

     Mrs. Breedlove is going to fight with Cholly today, because he came home drunk. She wakes him several times for coal, and tells him she better not sneeze once. Even though they fight violently a lot, the narrator says that the two need each other. Without Cholly, Mrs. Breedlove wouldn’t be able to assume the role of ‘martyrdom,’ as the narrator says she imagines herself as being. Cholly needs Mrs. Breedlove to take out his anger on her. He has had several instances of massive humiliation, and he is very angry very randomly, so much so that he surprises himself. The two have an unspoken agreement not to kill each other.

(Something strange, the children don’t call her mom or mother, they call her Mrs. Breedlove.)

     Of course, Mrs. Breedlove sneezes, so she pours cold water on Cholly’s head and they start fighting. The son, Sammy, joins in and knocks Cholly out, and encourages his mother to kill him.  Pecola sits silently and wills herself to disappear, but my bit, until only her eyes remain, like they always do. Pecola tells herself that if she had beautiful eyes, her parents wouldn’t fight, so she prays for blue eyes every night, without fail.

When Pecola goes to the candy store, the manager is frustrated with her because she is not communicating with her very clearly, and then he is afraid to touch her hand to get the money for the candy. Outside of the store, she feels ashamed, maybe for thinking the dandelions she saw on the way weren’t ugly, but now she sees that they really are.

     Pecola goes to see the prostitutes next. They are described not as hookers with hearts of gold or women whose innocence has been stolen. They just hate men. They aren’t ashamed of their job, or their ‘boyfriends.’

     The Breedloves aren’t ugly because of ugly faces. They have normal faces, with good and bad features. The narrator says it was like some “all-knowing master has said ‘you are ugly people.'” They accepted it. That is what makes them ugly. Their ugliness is given tot hem, but also chosen by them. This is similar to Mrs. Breedlove. She needs Cholly so that she can assume the role of martyr, so that her days are more dramatic, and that is why she accepts the abuse, even though she could leave if she wanted. She could have killed Cholly. She wants to give her life some meaning, but in doing so she has put herself in a destructive situation.

     Pecola thinks that if she had blue eyes, her life would be perfect like the girl on the candy wrappers. She wants new eyes so that she can change the way she sees and the way people see her. She temporarily abandons societies view of beautiful when she questions the assumption that the dandelions are ugly, but then accepts it again after her interaction in the candy store, as if interacting with the white man reminded her of what she was supposed to think beautiful was. This shows that she has the ability to accept herself as beautiful without blue eyes.

Posted March, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

The Abandonded Storefront   Leave a comment

The Breedloves used to live in what is now an abandoned store. Last, it was a pizza shop, before that a bakery, before that a house of gypsies, but long before all of those, back when the narrator says probably no one remembers, the Breedloves lived there. There is a long paragraph describing the furniture, and how it is old, but not familiar. (Indifference is mentioned here, too, like it was in the last chapter, but I don’t know what the authors purpose of using this word frequently could be just yet.) The couch is the only piece of furniture that they seem to care about, but it really is only upsetting to Cholly, since it came with a rap in it, but the store refused to take it back. The Breedloves’ house doesn’t blend with the ones around them, and it has been suggested, not so subtly, so far, that whatever happens to them isn’t pleasant, so maybe their ugly house won’t blend because they have a particularly ugly story, something that sets them apart into their own little horrific world that doesn’t blend either.

Morrison, though, in her description of the house, shows that people put emotional stick in their objects. This reminds me of the definition of a symbol I was taught (a concrete object represents an abstract idea). Except here, Morrison writes it as abnormal that the Breedloves don’t have positive emotions that depend on their furniture. They do, however, have plenty of negative emotions that are triggered at the sight of a particular piece, which emphasizes the heavy foreshadowing, or rather, stating, that they have very unpleasant lives.

Posted March, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

Claudia   Leave a comment

In this first chapter, we are introduced to Claudia. Right now, she is sick. She and her sister Frieda are supposed to go outside and collect the coal that falls off of the trains that are delivering it, so that they can warm their house in the cold. Claudia, apparently, didn’t cover her head well enough, and she caught a pretty nasty cold. There is a nice detailed description of her puke, but the main idea is Freida and her mother take care of Claudia, covering her with blankets and Vicks. Claudia doesn’t understand why her mother is mad at her, but she guesses she is mad at weakness, “for letting the sickness ‘take holt.'” She remembers her sister visiting her, “her eyes full of sorrow,” and singing to her. Claudia says she remembers love seeping into the room as thick as syrup, and she also remembers someone hearing her cough and coming into the room to recover her and check her fever. She says “when I think of autumn, I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die.”

The MacTeers are also welcoming a boarder, Henry Washington. The kids immediately take to him because he teases them a plays a magic trick. Pecola Breedlove is also joining the household, because her father burned her house down and she is in county custody. There is a healthy dose of drama that day as Pecola starts “ministraitin” and drinks too much milk for Mrs. MacTeers liking.

Claudia could be seen as powerless here, since she’s a sick, poor, female, black child in the 40’s, but the way she interacts with adults kind of contradicts this. She doesn’t really talk to them much, and she sees them as basically big people who need to be handled carefully in order to maximize safety for one’s self. Whether or not this view of adults is healthy or correct doesn’t matter much to me, because it is definitely a perspective which isn’t typical of a young child. She doesn’t think adults truly understand her, shown when she says that what she really wanted for christmas instead a doll was to sit in ‘Big Mamas’ kitchen with flowers in her lap while she listens to ‘Big Papa’ play violin.

Racism isn’t horrific in the book thus far, but the two older girls think Claudia is insane when she says Jane Withers is cuter than Shirley Temple. Claudia hates Shirley because her life is presumably perfect, and the two older girls have already either gotten over their jealousy or have accepted a somewhat racist attitude towards beauty, that being pale skin, yellow hair, and bright blue eyes. Claudia hates Shirley Temple, white dolls, and white girls. She hates the way adults rant about their cuteness, but not about Claudia herself. She hates the way grown black women act toward the white girls. She is terrified though, of how she acts toward white girls. She acts somewhat violently, like she does to the dolls, but she does so with indifference, which is the terrifying part. She is indifferent, then repulsed, then ashamed, so she seeks refuge, and she says the best place for that is love. I’m not sure what she means when she says “Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love.” She does say that she ‘learned’ to love Shirley Temple, but not until much later. She pretty much calls out her community for worshiping white images given to them, labeled as the standard of beautiful.

Pecola asked: “How do you get somebody to love you?” Frieda was asleep, and Claudia didn’t know the answer. The girls think that the only way to have a baby is for someone to love them, so this may help Pecola later on, when she is carrying her fathers baby. Maybe she will think her father loves her even though he burned down her house.

 

Posted March, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized

Jane and 1941   Leave a comment

Jane, I think, isn’t an active character, just a piece of imagination of one of the characters in the story that I’ll meet eventually.

I’m not sure what to make of Jane, but the story goes that there is a very pretty house with a family of four and a kitten and a dog inside. Jane asks most everyone in turn to play with her, or rather the narrator of the story does, and they just…don’t. The cat just news at her, her “very nice” mother laughs, her father smiles, until finally a friend comes and she will play with Jane. “Play, Jane, play.” The whole paragraph is repeated exactly, but without any punctuation, and then again without anything but the letters, no spaces, no punctuation.

Tenth grade english, if the author goes to so much trouble as to do (insert something the author did, like math or repetition) then it’s probably important. I’m pretty sure Jane is white, but it doesn’t specify, and it doesn’t say anything about blue eyes. The way the sentences are structured, the first paragraph remind me of a children’s book, except without pictures or having only one sentence per page. Which is why it struck me as odd that no one would play with Jane, or even talk to her, or be near her. The animals kept running away, and her parents just looked at her. I thought if a child were seeing this in a dream, or something like that, someone would play with Jane, or rather everyone would play with Jane whenever she asked, but that isn’t the case.

It is strange that Jane cannot find someone who will play her in this children’s book-type world, and I think that the author was trying to say that even the definition of perfect has something wrong with it, loneliness in Jane’s case.

In 1941, the marigolds didn’t bloom. Of course, the only logical explanation is that it’s because Pecola was having her fathers baby. Oh wait, that’s not normal. I admit, this was a little shaking after reading the whole thing with Jane, then the second sentence I read next is about incest. Anyways, it turns out that probably isn’t why the seeds failed, since all of the marigolds failed that year, too. I don’t know who the narrator is yet. I think it’s one of Pecola’s sisters. The narrator reveals that both Cholly and the baby are dead. She closed the unnamed section by saying “since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.” This means that it’s much easier to understand what actually happened as opposed to what it’s purpose was, like why Cholly would impregnate his daughter, or why the earth didn’t let the flowers grow, or maybe why God didn’t let them grow, but I don’t know yet of these girls are religious.

I’ve already said that the marigold were probably important, and now there are none, so whatever beauty or safety the marigolds had brought each year in the past was gone now. It’s not hard to understand why the narrator linked the flowers with Pecola’s baby. They were both sources of hope, most likely, and both definitely beautiful things, so I can see why whichever girls is narrating would think that the flowers needed to be healthy for the baby to live.

Both of these unnamed sections in the book offer a little foreshadowing. The Jane scene was someone’s idea of perfect, or their dream, and that was ruined when Jane couldn’t find a playmate and no one would talk to her, making her lonely. The marigolds seemed like such a strong symbol, and all the seeds are dead, so that can’t be promising anything good. The narrator in the 1941 section is unable to say why she thinks things are going wrong, but her attitude suggests there are similarly tragic things to come.

Posted February, 2012 by emilienoel2013 in Uncategorized