1. The novel opens with an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer. The lines begin to blur and run together—as they do at the beginning of select chapters. What social commentary is implicit in Morrison's superimposing these bland banalities describing a white family and its activities upon the tragic story of the destruction of a young black girl?
2. How does Morrison's powerful language—both highly specific and lyrical—comment on the inadequacy of "correct" English and the way in which it masks entire worlds of beauty and pain?
3. "Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow."
With these lines Morrison's child narrator, Claudia MacTeer, invites the reader into a troubling community secret: the incestuous rape of her 11-year-old friend Pecola Breedlove. What are the advantages of telling Pecola's story from a child's point of view?
4. In what ways does Morrison show how Pecola's environment—and American society as a whole—are hostile to her very existence?