The people of Lorain force Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda to defend themselves or perish in The Bluest Eye because, in general, neither the town’s adults nor children create a warm, welcoming environment for Claudia, Freida, or Pecola. Most of the people in Lorain treat Pecola like an outcast. They make it seem like it’s her fault that her dad raped her. They blame her for the resulting pregnancy.
By aligning themselves with Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda are forced to defend themselves and suffer abuse that was not initially intended for them. If Claudia and Frieda did not try and protect Pecola and her baby, it’s reasonable to claim that they wouldn’t be in so many situations in which they had to stick up for themselves or submit to cruel mistreatment.
Think about the scene with Maureen or the part when a group of boys taunt Pecola after school. In both instances, Claudia and Freida put themselves in a predicament where they must defend themselves or perish because of how they make it their duty to take care of Pecola. Maureen wasn’t pestering Claudia or Frieda about their dad, neither were the schoolboys. By making Pecola’s problems their problems, the MacTeer sisters share in Pecola’s troubles.
Of course, not all of Claudia’s and Frieda’s issues can be linked to Pecola. The oppressive white baby dolls and the predatory Mr. Henry are not the direct result of their relationship to Pecola. The presence of the dolls and the border, however, reflect the relative lack of compassion in the town and the way that the people in it seem to normalize and accept varying levels of hardship.