What,if anything, do you find ironic about the use of the elementary school primer as a framing device for a story about a little black girl?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Morrison is making a statement about how knowledge, acceptance, and cultural notions of the good are acquired in her use of the elementary school primer as a framing device.  One its face value, the primer is supposed to educate, provide explanations, and guide individuals into acquiring knowledge.  However, it becomes fairly clear that there is no primer to explain the racism that exists in America and the self- loathing that is its result in the African- American community.  There is no primer to explain why one child is loved and another is tormented.  There can be no textbook to justify why Maureen Peal has power and Pecola lacks it.  Morrison is indicating that there is a disconnect between formal instruction and education and social reality.  

The education of "Dick and Jane" stories that exist in the primer- based notion of American idealism does not explain the horror that exists in the realistic element of American society.  Morrison finds irony in this disconnect.  The use of the primer as the framing device helps to hold a mirror to American society, one in which the poison of racism infects White Americans and people of color. Morrison uses this to show how traditional education is shown to be lacking in the real and socially relevant tranformative discussion that needs to be held on race.


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