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The importance of the symbol that Marigold portrays?

The marigold symbolizes the idea that although Pecola, Frieda, and Claudia may work very hard in their community to grow and prosper, it may never happen. The marigold had good seeds, was cared for, and was planted with good intentions, but because of the location where the marigold was planted, it never grew. Ultimately, the marigold symbolizes black suppression, indicating that no matter how hard they try to change things, even against the conditions they are under, they will never be able to “grow” and prosper because of the location they were “planted”.

Why did author Toni Morrison choose to use Shirley Temple as the doll, and what importance does she hold?

I think Morrison chose Shirley Temple as the doll in this story because of her reputation for embodying what young girls in America were supposed to act and be like. Her smile was full of happiness, portraying the idea that she was perfect. The fact that Pecola, a young black girl, was so fascinated with this doll shows the deep-rooted ideals that white girls were the ones who got made into dolls, and even black girls wanted to be like white girls. It also allows Morrison to make the metaphor of why Pecola isn’t beautiful because of what lay inside her, but only because of her exterior.

Is the last name Breedlove ironic and important in this story?

The surname Breedlove is ironic because it suggests that this family loves to “breed love”. However, it actually alludes to the family’s destructive ways that they choose to use to show that they love each other. Morrison specifically uses Cholly because he only knows how to show love through sex; he was never taught to value himself as anything more than that. Men in this society tended to be objectified as people who were utterly obsessed with their sexuality. Lastly, in their community, women having children was less about giving birth than it was about “breeding”.

Rhetorical Analyzer:

“Here is the house. It is green and white. It has a red door. It is very pretty. Here is the family. Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane live in the green-and-white house. They are very happy. See Jane. She has a red dress. She wants to play. Who will play with Jane? See the cat. It goes meow-meow. Come and play. Come play with Jane”(Morrison 1).

Throughout this passage, Morrison makes specific use of very short and staccato sentences. This passage opens the book and, by using this technique, Morrison is foreshadowing to the reader a possible deficiency in the education of the book’s main characters. The opening is actually an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer; something that a young black girl, like Frieda or Claudia MacTeer, would most likely use to learn how to read. As you read throughout the passage, the beginnings and endings of sentences begin to blur together, just as many of the chapters do throughout this book. In this quote, all of the words are at most two syllables, and they are so simplistic that they come across as if they were trying to diminish the education of the reader. The passage focuses on playing into the stereotypes of a “common” middle-class white family. By using the happy white family, it juxtaposes the pain and suffering the black characters in this book must endure for something as simple as education. Even including the line “They are very happy” suggests that white families don’t have struggles and that they have nothing to fear or worry about. Young girls, especially those of African descent, were influenced by teachings and ideals that they were inferior to those around them from the moment they began to read. That something like this is ingrained in such an important aspect of childhood and education also acts as a foundation for what the story focuses on. Morrison chose a passage that diminishes black people’s lives without even mentioning a word about race by using both short sentences and simple words to open her novel.

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“But the dismembering of dolls was not the true horror. The truly terrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have asked them was shaken only by my desire to do so… When I learned how repulsive this disinterested violence was, that it was repulsive because it was disinterested, my shame floundered about the refuge. The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love. It was a small step to Shirley Temple. I learned much later to worship her, just as I learned to delight in cleanliness, knowing, even as I learned, that the change was adjustment without improvement”(Morrison 23).

This passage makes clear Claudia’s intense hatred for Shirley Temple and everything she symbolizes through her highly emotional diction and developing persona. Unlike Pecola, Claudia doesn’t understand the fascination and love that everyone has for Shirley Temple, and this in of itself places the role of a very important symbol in Claudia’s life. Claudia begins the passage with a very innocent persona; the hatred that Claudia holds over this doll stems from the ideas of her being powerless in a world where being not only a girl, but a black girl just makes the barriers one has to cross even higher. Her innocence comes to full view when she begins to believe that the only reason people have such a profound love for this cultural star is because of what lies inside of her. Just before this event happens Claudia describes the time when she violently pulled apart the doll with the hope of discovering what truly made them beautiful, but instead she found a hard metal core with nothing in it. She mentions her realization that what the dolls represented was “terrifying”, and this is the moment when Claudia begins to understand that the love people have for Shirley Temple isn’t born out of interest in what she has inside of where, but what she looks like on the outside. Shirley Temple is a symbol for what society judges as perfect and valued; a young, beautiful, pale girl with bright eyes.

While Claudia is very accustomed to racial segregation and the idea that she is subordinate to any white person in any position, her main worries and struggles come from the constant threat of poverty and homelessness. Her persona begins to mature when she realizes the reason why Shirley Temple is so highly valued is because of her pale skin and beautiful face, her hatred moves from not only dolls but to any young white girl with any resemblance to Temple. Claudia says, “the truly terrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls”. Her innocence begins to fade; she goes on to say that “I learned much later to worship her, just as I learned to delight in cleanliness”; this shows that for the first time the things she really values begin to become distorted at the cost of acceptance by the society around her. In this passage Morrison provides a crystal-clear example of Claudia beginning to understand the battles she is soon to face. She makes use of the words “fraudulent love” showing that although she may never fully accept the changes she must make, she will at least act in a manner that will fit into the society.

“There is nothing more to say about the furnishings. They were anything but describable, having been conceived, manufactured, shipped, and sold in various states of thoughtlessness, greed, and indifference. The furniture had aged without ever having become familiar. People had owned it but never known it. No one had lost a penny or a brooch under the cushions of either sofa and remembered the place and time of the loss or the finding… No one had given birth in one of the beds- or remembered with fondness the peeled paint places, because that’s what the baby, when he learned to pull himself up, used to pick loose”(Morrison 35).

Morrison uses this passage to create a place where the reader can picture this story taking place; she uses both imagery and symbolism very effectively to do so. The chapter as a whole was written as though it were the directions sent from a play director of how exactly he wanted his set to be built. The illusion of isolation, despair, and failure are all quite synonymous with the description of the Breedlove’s home. This passage illustrates the living conditions of the Breedlove family and just how grim their day-to-day lives were. The furniture holds this feeling of time passing, but nothing ever worth mentioning happened in their home and their family. Although the family never got new furniture, the furniture they had never collected any memories for the family. The author mentions that while people had owned the furniture, no one had ever “known it”. The future becomes a symbol synonymous with the ideas that are in many aspects of their lives; the Breedlove family had come into contact with so many different people and so many people had claimed ownership of this storefront, but this store didn’t hold any meaning or memories for any of them. However, the coach was specifically mentioned and several different possible scenarios were linked to the object. How Morrison values the worth of the couch or anything in the world, is how much can be found in it and how much has been lost in it. The fact that “No one had lost a penny or a brooch” on the couch was a disgrace to Morrison all on its own. Morrison also mentions that the worth of a bed comes from the life it helped create, and because these things are absent from the Breedlove home, the home brings no positivity to the world. This quote also reinforces the idea that everything in life must be given meaning or it isn’t important at all; the few appliances the Breedloves do one just further examples of suffering and pain. With this passage, a deep sense of symbolism grows, and the reader can create an idea of the poverty and pain these characters face every day, but they still keep their values high.

Wordsmith: Phlegm: “When, on a day trip to collect coal, I cough once, loudly, through bronchial tubes already packed tight with phlegm, my mother frowns”(Morrison 10). Definition: The thick viscous substance secreted by the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, especially when produced in excessive or abnormal quantities, e.g., when someone is suffering from a cold. Metaphysical: “Outdoors was the end of something, an irrevocable, physical fact, defining and complementing our metaphysical condition”(Morrison 17). Definition: relating to metaphysics. Fructifying: “Or rather, it was productive and fructifying pain”(Morrison 12). Definition: To make (something) fruitful or productive. Added: “But she’s too addled now to keep up”(Morrison 13). Definition: To be unable to think clearly; confused. Bemused: “I was bemused with the thing itself and the way it looked”(Morrison 20). Definition: To be puzzled, confused, or bewildered. Acridness: “Instead I tasted and smelled the acridness of tin plates and cups designed for tea parties that bored me”(Morrison 22). Definition: To have a sharp and harsh or unpleasantly pungent taste or odor: irritating acrid smoke. Galvanized: “Instead I looked with loathing on new dresses that required a hateful bath in a galvanized zinc tub before wearing”(Morrison 22). Definition: To coat (iron or steel) with a protective layer of zinc. Chagrined: “She would go on like that for hours, connecting one offense to another until all of the things that chagrined her were spewed together”(Morrison 24). Definition: To feel distressed or humiliated. Foist: “Rather, it foists itself on the eye of the passerby in a manner that is both irritating and melancholy”(Morrison 33). Definition: To impose an unwelcome or unnecessary person or thing on. Surfeited: “The anger will not hold; the puppy is too easily surfeited”(Morrison 50). Definition: To cause (someone) to desire no more of something as a result of having consumed or done it to excess.

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