This section begins with an excerpt from the first-grade primer about the picture-perfect white Mother. The white Mother is very nice; she plays and sings. She is not like Pauline Breedlove, the black mother whom we saw mercilessly abusing her daughter because of an accident. How did Pauline come to be the mother who disciplines her daughter so harshly? Morrison explains it this way: When Pauline was two years old, she stepped on a nail, and ever afterward that foot flopped, making her feel separated from other people and unworthy.
A quiet, private girl, Pauline was responsible for her two young twin siblings, Chicken and Pie, while her mother worked. She enjoyed keeping house, arranging and straightening things, and being neat and meticulous. She dreamed of meeting a good-looking, loving man, and when she did, she and Cholly Breedlove moved to Lorain, Ohio, where he worked in a steel mill. Having little to do, Pauline began going to the movies, where she filled her life with fantasy.
Laced into the narrative of this chapter are letter-like memories, seemingly spoken or written by Pauline about her life with Cholly — how it changed, how she changed. She remembers Cholly as a strapping man with his own music, who, in contrast to everyone else, touched her broken foot and kissed her leg. Cholly was her rainbow man. During the early years of their marriage, Pauline's sexual orgasms were multicolored. She describes how she felt herself becoming the deep purple of ripe berries, the cool yellow of lemonade, flowing with streaks of green, and how all the colors coalesced when Cholly touched her. Pauline describes the feeling as being like "laughing between my legs." Years later, there is no laughter and no rainbows. Pauline is living in a cold, gray, lifeless building; Cholly has turned to liquor, and Pauline has again turned to fantasy. Earlier, she soothed her troubled soul in the promises of church hymns and then in the fairytale world of the movies. Now she finds happiness in the beautiful, fantasy-like world of the white, affluent Fisher family, where there is an abundance of virtue, beauty, and order.