Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cute and the dictionary

A “boy” — the still mysterious Johnny Chessler — has called Jean Jarrett cute:

Beverly Cleary, Jean and Johnny (1959).

One could read this passage in relation to W. E. B. DuBois’s idea of double-consciousness: “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” Double-consciousness is unmistakably at work here: Jean sees herself as insignificant when others call her Half Pint; she begins to see herself as cute when Johnny Chessler pronounces her so. She later looks in a mirror and imagines how she might have looked to Johnny. By the end of the novel, Jean is able to look in a mirror with a stronger sense of self.

To my mind, Cleary’s wit heightens rather than diminishes the pathos in this passage.

Related reading
All OCA dictionary posts (Pinboard)
Dowdy-world miracle (From Fifteen )
Jean Jarrett, letter writer
Ramona Quimby and cursive
Ramona Quimby, stationery fan

[Whatever dictionary Jean is using, I don’t have it.]

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