What do the passages from a child's reading primer- at the begining of the chapters - represent in the novel?
Morrison uses selections from the "Dick and Jane" reader to represent the three lifestyles presented in the novel. The book opens with three excerpts from the "Dick and Jane" reader, which was the standard textbook used to teach children to read from the 1940s through the 1960s. Each version reflects one family's lifestyle and situation.
The text of the first version is the standard text, with correct capitalization and punctuation, representing the ideal white family (in the novel, the Fishers). The second version contains the same words as the first but contains no punctuation or capitalization. This version symbolizes the MacTeer family, which is stable and loving, but much poorer than the Fishers. The final version, however, has completely destroyed the proper grammar, containing no punctuation or capitalization-not even spaces between words. This version, of course, represents the dysfunctional Breedlove family, and Pecola's eventual insanity.
Although the life presented in the "Dick and Jane" series was very different from the life many children lived in the 1940s, the intent was for children to lose themselves in stories about Dick, Jane, and Sally, and live for a time with these happy storybook characters. But Morrison, on the other hand, recognized what others have not: that being inundated with a fantasy world that your family can never achieve does not provide release but leads to self-hatred, misanthropy, and insanity.