The children are struck by the fact that the schools in St. Louis are full of relatively uneducated children. Marguerite and Bailey knew how to count because of their work on the register, and they both spent much of their free time reading, so they were well ahead of their classmates.
Despite all of the turbulence in her life, Marguerite is a good student. This is evidence of her innate passion for language and learning. She never finds studying difficult, because she enjoys it.
One of their mother’s brothers tells Marguerite one day that it doesn’t matter if she isn’t pretty, because she is smart. He says intelligence is always better than prettiness.
Marguerite’s investment in her education results in part from her insecurity about her appearance. She is driven to expand her knowledge and intellect as if to “make up for” her ugliness.
Their mother has a live-in boyfriend named Mr. Freeman. He is fat and ugly and seems to understand he is lucky to have a woman like Vivien (their mother) in his life. He longs for her when she is gone and his eyes follow her throughout the house when she is home.
Marguerite’s first impression of Mr. Freeman is that he is “too ugly” for her mother. Recall that Marguerite also thinks this about herself—this is perhaps one of the reasons she will seek out affection from Mr. Freeman later in the book