The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The naïvete with which Claudia experiences the world allows readers a rare glimpse into the mind of a young African American girl coming of age. Much surprises her. When Pecola comes to stay with the MacTeers temporarily because Cholly has set his family’s house on fire, Claudia cannot believe that a father could be so irresponsible as to put his own family outdoors: “Outdoors, we knew, was the real terror of life. . . . There is a difference between being put out and being put out-doors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go.” During her stay, Pecola begins to menstruate. Claudia believes that such bleeding must be fatal, until her hardly more informed sister explains that it simply means that Pecola is now able to have babies. That night, Claudia feels that “lying next to a real person who was really ministratin’ was somehow sacred.” She is surprised again when an adult friend of the family inappropriately touches Frieda, and she concludes that her sister must now be “ruined,” the word applied to the three neighborhood prostitutes. The girls naturally reason that Frieda will either be fat like the one or thin like the other and can be cured only by whiskey. Claudia also comes to realize how important color is in the larger world—through white baby dolls, Shirley Temple, and Maureen Peal, through Mrs. Breedlove’s greater concern for a white girl than for her own child Pecola...
(The entire section is 740 words.)
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The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Although the eleven-year-old Pecola is the most obvious victim in the novel, most of the black characters are presented as victims of white society. In her childish innocence, Pecola really believes that the world would be better if viewed through the blue eyes so highly valued according to the white standard of beauty. Pecola has been made to feel ugly because she is black. Her quest for blue eyes is symbolic of her quest for the attention and love that she has missed during her bleak childhood.
Claudia feels loved by her family, yet she also feels rejected by society in general because of her blackness. By having Claudia narrate the events of the novel, Morrison (who herself was born in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931) presents them with some of the naïveté of the child but also with the clarity of vision that prejudiced adults have lost. Claudia is too young to accept without question what everyone else seems to assume: that little black girls are somehow lesser beings because of their blackness. She hates white baby dolls and the little white girls (including Shirley Temple) on whom they are modeled. She would like to tear both apart to find their secret: What is it that makes all adults, black and white, prize little white girls so much and little black girls so little? Claudia and her sister, Frieda, seem to be the only people who believe that Pecola’s baby deserves to live and be loved. The older Claudia who tells the story, however, knows that she has...
(The entire section is 561 words.)
Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Claudia MacTeer, the nine-year-old black girl who possesses the most consistent narrative voice in a novel resonant with several different narrative voices, all used to reveal the personal histories of significant characters. Claudia tells the story of Pecola Breedlove as both child narrator, present at critical moments in Pecola’s life, and as reflective adult looking back at particular events and signs. Psychologically and emotionally healthy, sturdy, loyal, and compassionate, Claudia and her sister function as dramatic counterparts to Pecola Breedlove. Both girls befriend Pecola, and both apparently are the only characters who can feel sorrow or pity for her.
Pecola Breedlove, the novel’s tragic, unassuming protagonist and ultimate victim. At the age of eleven, Pecola, her family, and virtually everyone she meets, except the Mac-Teers, is convinced of her alleged ugliness. Her lack of self-esteem is generated by the destructive idea that no one values a black child and also by the contempt heaped on her by others. A pathetic figure, abused by her parents, denied by other adults, and the target of vicious attacks from other children, Pecola believes that acquiring blue eyes will lessen her loneliness and cause others to see her in an entirely new and more appreciative light. At the novel’s close, she has been raped by her father and driven into madness and into a quest for...
(The entire section is 837 words.)
Except for possibly the Frasier family and the archetypal Dick and Jane, all the characters of The Bluest Eye are both universal—that is, representative—and individual. Morrison successfully infuses the characters with personal qualities that lead us to empathize with them, as well as with universal meaning. For the most part, they are victims of the European-American community's standards of beauty and of an economic system that exploits minorities. Many also are caught up in a cycle of victimization, like Geraldine, who in her attempt to protect her son from becoming the poor African American she despises, alienates him both from the culture she despises and the one to which she aspires.
Pecola is everyone's victim, so hers is the scapegoat's role. Cholly passes on his frustration as a husband, father, and wage earner to her in the form of sexual aggression; Pauline, Geraldine, and Junior despise her as an emblem of a culture they wish to escape. Soaphead and Junior take advantage of her innocence for their own sick agendas. Even Claudia, despite many acts of friendship and love, realizes that she and her sister used Pecola to compensate for their own lack of self-esteem. Thus the vast majority of the characters are caught in a vicious circle of victimization; unable to cope successfully with their own lack of power in the culture, they find someone weaker than themselves upon whom they can prey. Unfortunately for people like Pecola, some are...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Aunt Jimmy becomes Cholly Breedlove's guardian after rescuing the four-day-old child from the trash heap where his mother, her niece, had abandoned him. When she is ill, Aunt Jimmy is instructed to drink only "pot liquor"; however, she "[dies] of peach cobbler" after eating a piece of pie.
Cholly Breedlove begins his life abandoned by his mother when he is only four days old. He spends most of his life in a state of abandonment, disconnected from those around him, and as the novel describes him, "dangerously free" because of his isolation. When his guardian, Aunt Jimmy, dies, he is initiated into the world of racism as two hunters interrupt him having sex with a young black girl named Darlene and refuse to let the couple stop. He is unable to continue having sex and directs his hatred toward Darlene instead of toward the white men because, as the novel states, hatred for whites who are in a position of power would have consumed him totally and immediately. However, the hatred he directs toward Darlene gnaws at him his entire life. The day before he is to leave with the uncle appointed to be his guardian, Cholly leaves for Macon in search of his father who, when Cholly finds him, spurns him in favor of a game of craps. Cholly turns to alcohol, and although his early married life with Pauline contains some hopeful moments, for the most part, his existence is dismal. In a scene...
(The entire section is 1918 words.)