Study Help Essay Questions

1. Discuss the narrative structure of the novel. Why might Morrison have chosen to present the events in a non-chronological way?

2. Write an essay in which you discuss Morrison’s juxtaposing the primer’s Mother-Father-Dick-Jane sections with Claudia’s and the omniscient narrator’s sections. What is the relationship between these three differing narrative voices?

3. Discuss the significance of no marigolds blooming in the fall of 1941.

4. Compare Pecola’s character to Claudia’s. Which of these two characters is better able to reject white, middle-class America’s definitions of beauty? Support your answer with examples from the text.

5. Discuss the symbolism associated with Shirley Temple in the novel. What does she represent to Pecola? What might she represent to Maureen Peal?

6. Discuss Cholly’s dysfunctional childhood. What is his definition of what a family should be? Does knowing about his upbringing affect your reactions when he rapes Pecola? Why or why not?

7. How does Morrison present gender relations in the novel? Are men and women’s relationships generally portrayed positively or negatively? Support your answer with examples from the text.

8. Write an essay in which you compare Louis Junior’s and Soaphead Church’s treatments of Pecola. Is she treated worse by one of these characters than the other? If so, which one, and why? Is it significant that each relationship involves animals?

9. Discuss the mother-daughter relationships in the novel.

10. Does Morrison present any positive role models for Pecola and other girls like her? How might Morrison define what beauty is? Does she present any examples of such beauty in the novel?

11. Write an essay in which you discuss Pecola’s dream of happiness and Langston Hughes’ poem “Dream Deferred.” Is Pecola’s wanting the bluest eyes a “dream deferred”? Discuss Pecola’s dream in terms of its worth, compared to the dreams of young Pauline, the dreams of Louis Junior’s mother, Geraldine, and the dreams of Soaphead Church. What do these people dream for, and what will it take to make them happy? Are their dreams attainable, or will they eventually be deferred and dry up “like a raisin in the sun,” as Hughes’ poem suggests?