Analysis: Writing Style
Lyrical and Featuring Multiple Perspectives
Morrison is famous for her use of fragmented narrative with multiple perspectives. Her use of different narrative styles – alternating between first- and third-person omniscient – gives her the freedom to do two interesting things. On the one hand, she uses Claudia to convey the thoughts and perceptions of a 9-year-old girl, giving the novel an aspect of innocence. On the other hand, the use of third-person omniscient narration allows the novel to cover broad sweeps of time and space – like when we get the history of the Breedloves' storefront or stories about Soaphead Church's white ancestors. This opens the novel up, giving it historical depth, and allowing us to see how the racial issues of the past are still impacting these characters in the 20th century.
Sometimes the contrast between speakers is particularly vivid. For example, during Pauline's story, the narration begins in third-person omniscient. Suddenly, about three pages in, we get a series of paragraphs from Pauline's perspective. One minute we're reading a lyrical line about how Pauline "saw the Kentucky sun drenching the yellow, heavy-lidded eyes of Cholly Breedlove" (3.7.10). The next minute we're immersed in Pauline's own Southern dialect as she says, "When I first seed Cholly...it was like all the bits of color from that time down home when all us chil'ren went berry picking after a funeral" (3.7.10). This makes the narrative more inclusive, giving rural, less-educated characters the opportunity to describe their own experience in their own language.