Who is Mr. Henry in The Bluest Eye?  

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Rebecca Karli eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr. Henry is a boarder who rents a room in the MacTeer family household. He has a reputation for being soft-spoken and hard-working, although he has a secret, promiscuous side and a desire for young girls. He easily befriends Claudia and Frieda and earns their trust. Later, however, he touches Frieda's breasts and is kicked out of their home. The significance of this character is to highlight the girls' innocence and the role of black female sexuality in their community. Although Claudia knows what Mr. Henry did to her teenage sister was wrong, she is confused about it and wonders what it feels like to be desired. Afterward, when their neighbor says that Frieda is now "ruined," they misinterpret what this means and think that it means she is getting fat, again showing that they are young, innocent girls who are exposed to sexuality too soon by men who they trust.

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mr. Henry (full name Henry Washington) is not part of the MacTeer family, but simply boards in their house.  Mr. Henry spends much of the book endearing himself to both Claudia and Frieda.  One of his more ingenious methods is to refer to them with the names of famous mid-century film stars such as Ginger Rogers or Greta Garbo.  One day, Henry gives the girls money to buy ice cream and sends them on their way.  When Claudia and Frieda return, they find Mr. Henry with two women of questionable reputation (Maginot Line and China).  Even though the two women are widely known as prostitutes, Mr. Henry convinces Claudia and Frieda that they are part of a Bible Study group together.  Yet, he still reminds them not to tell their mother about this.  Hmmmm, that should have been an immediate red flag!  Of course, Mr. Henry is finally thrown out of the house for touching Frieda inappropriately.

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