Summary and Analysis
This first fragment seems to be an excerpt from a 1940s American first-grade primer, one that was used for decades to teach white and black students to read. In short, simple sentences, the family in the primer is described as a happy, picture-perfect, American white family, consisting of a big, strong Father, a nice, laughing Mother, a clean-cut son, Dick, and a pretty daughter, Jane.
The paragraph is repeated, and this time all punctuation disappears, along with the capital letters. When the paragraph is repeated a third time, the spacing between the sentences fades, flowing into one long, almost incoherent sentence. The primer's once-perfect sentences are fractured and disjointed, rushing into a flood of words — incomprehensible linguistic chaos.
The perfect world of the happy white family in the first-grade primer is unlike any world Pecola Breedlove knows. In her neighborhood, there are no green and white houses with white doors. In her neighborhood, families are not happy. Jane has a pretty red dress; Pecola does not. Jane's father and mother laugh and play; in Pecola's world, no one laughs or plays, and there are no happy fathers and mothers.
Throughout the novel, excerpts of this primer will be repeated as reminders for readers to be aware of the dichotomy between the black and white cultures. Pecola's tragedy will stem in large part from her unquestionably accepting the image and the values of the white culture; far more than anything else in the primer, she wants to have Jane's blue eyes, fraudulent symbols of real beauty that have no real relationship to lasting happiness and love.