Reference to 'Dick and Jane' in Toni Morrison's 'the Bluest Eye'

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English Assignment K1 Toni Morrison - The Bluest Eye (Ms. Caulk) Due: November 1st , 2010

100 – 300 words on Morrison starting her novel with a reference to the Dick and Jane children's books. Contrast the different ways of portraying childhood.

Toni Morrison's first novel, 'The Bluest Eye' (1970) is prefaced by two different prologues, the very first one referencing to 'Dick and Jane' children's books. While both, the 'Dick and Jane' part as well as the novel's first regular chapter ( called 'Autumn'), describe aspects of childhood during the first half of the 20th century, vast differences in style and content can be found.

The 'Dick and Jane' part is written in the style of a 'Dick and Jane'-easy reading book, with simple and short sentences, told by a distant 3rd person narrator. Except for some colors, there are no adjectives used. The name 'Jane' is repeated frequently and also the exact text is repeated three times, first without punctuation, then even leaving out empty spaces. This gives an impression of almost violent indoctrination, reflecting the moral and cultural standards of society's literate, white part. Positioning the piece at the very beginning of the novel shows that it's the status quo, the dominant view at the times the portrayed characters live in.

In contrast, 'Autumn' is told in first person by the little girl 'Claudia', her name is only used a few times throughout the entire chapter. Sentences are longer and full of adjectives, direct speech is in Ebonics. This gives the reader a close-up view of the strongly differing reality of a black girl: Violence and sickness, but also love, are described through a child's perspective. In contrast to Jane's reality, there remain unanswered questions, and the harsh struggles in Claudia's life are portrayed closely. The use of such a drastically different writing style illustrates the fact that – unlike Dick and Jane suggest - real life is complicated, at times violent, but also poetic...
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