In The Bluest Eye, Where and when does Morrison insert variations in the Dick and Jane primer?

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jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Morrison first inserts the "Dick and Jane" story at the beginning of the novel, preceding the adult Claudia's reflections of her childhood in the fall of 1941. As the previous educator mentioned, the excerpt initially appears as a harmonious narrative. Then, in the very next paragraph, it has almost no punctuation and the proper names are no longer capitalized. In the third paragraph, the letters are completely blended together.

In other parts of the novel, the "Dick and Jane" motif reappears to break up sections. However, it never again appears whole, as at the beginning, but only in excerpts. The second time it appears is after Claudia and Frieda's mother finds out that Pecola has started to menstruate and before the description of the old "abandoned store" where the Breedloves live. This time, Morrison uses the "Here is the house" portion of the story. The letters are all capitalized now and, again, blend into each other.

Before introducing the Breedloves, she uses the "Here is the family" portion of the children's story. Once again, all of the letters are capitalized and blend together, which is how portions of the story that introduce sections continue to appear.

Before the section about Junior, a boy with whom Pecola experiments sexually, and his mother Geraldine, Morrison uses the "See the cat" section. In this part, Geraldine expresses a love for her cat that inspires jealous rage in her son, which causes him to victimize both Pecola and the cat.

In the sections that introduce Pauline and Cholly Breedlove's backgrounds, respectively, Morrison uses the "See Mother" and "See Father" sections.

Before introducing the character of Elihue Micah Whitcomb, or Soaphead Church, she uses the "See the Dog" section, for Soaphead is the owner of a sickly, old dog whom Pecola gently pets when entering Soaphead's store.

Finally, Morrison uses the "Look! Look! Here comes a friend" portion when there is a dialogue between Pecola and an unnamed speaker. The reader is initially inclined to believe that it is Claudia; then, finding out from Claudia about Pecola's descent into madness—the "blue void"—one thinks that it could be a dialogue with a hallucinated figure who can see the blue eyes Pecola believes Soaphead Church has given her.

The Dick and Jane stories were teaching books that debuted in the 1930s. They depicted healthy, rosy-cheeked, smiling white children with smiling parents, a nice suburban home, and pets. The world of Dick and Jane bore little relation to the suffering of the Great Depression or the impending war in 1941. It was also yet another example of how black children were inundated with aspirational images that did not reflect themselves or their lives. Black people did not appear as characters in the stories until the 1960s.

Payal Khullar eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison inserts excerpts from an elementary primer- the Dick and Jane primer, which is taught widely in the US schools, in between the story of Pecola Breedlove. The primer shows a happy White American family consisting of a mother, a father, Dick and Jane. The primer appears in three forms that move from order towards complete chaos. First time, it is written properly showing the ideal White family with a lot of love and happiness. The second time it appears without requisite capitalization along with some punctuation errors, creating a little confusion. This indicates pressures of White standards of living on other characters like Geraldine and Maureen, who change themselves and aspire to become like the White community. But the third time it gets a lot messed up because of no spaces and improper alignment, making it confusing and hard to read. This corresponds to the disordered and tough life of the Breedloves.