SPRING: Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
The Fishers’ daughter: the adorable daughter of the family that has hired Mrs. Breedlove as a maid
One spring Saturday, Claudia returns from playing outside and finds the house unusually quiet. She goes to her bedroom and finds Frieda crying on the bed. Frieda tells her sister that Mr. Henry had touched her breasts. When Frieda’s father found out, he tried to shoot Mr. Henry but missed. Frieda cannot stop crying, and Claudia wonders if their mother had beat her. Frieda finally breaks down and tells Claudia that a neighbor told their parents that Frieda might be “ruined.” Frieda is scared because she believes she will turn out like the prostitutes that their mother always talks about. Frieda is afraid that she will become fat, but Claudia remembers that China and Poland are “ruined” but thin. China and Poland drink whiskey, so the girls conclude that “ruined” people drink whiskey in order to stay thin. They decide that they need to get whiskey and head towards Pecola’s house, since her father is a drunk.
When Frieda and Claudia get to Pecola’s house, they find the Maginot Line sitting on the porch of their apartment drinking root beer. Both Frieda and Claudia are scared because they believe they “were seeing what was to become of Frieda.” Claudia finally asks about Pecola’s whereabouts, and she is told that Pecola is with her mother at the edge of town. Pecola’s mother works as a maid for a white family, and Pecola is helping her with some chores. The Maginot Line invites them to come up and wait for Pecola, but Frieda refuses, saying that they were told not to come near her. The Maginot Line simply laughs and throws the empty root beer bottle at the girls, narrowly missing them. The girls run away and decide to walk to the end of town.
They find Pecola by the house, and Mrs. Breedlove calls them into the kitchen of the house. The three girls wait for Mrs. Breedlove to get the laundry. While they are waiting, a little white girl in a pink dress asks them where “Polly” is, and Claudia feels hatred rising in her. Their thoughts, however, are diverted by a fresh berry cobbler on the windowsill. Pecola wants to touch it to see if it is still hot, but she accidentally spills it on herself. Mrs. Breedlove quickly runs up and starts slapping Pecola for ruining the floor, and then she consoles the little white girl, who is crying because the pie is ruined. She orders Pecola, Claudia, and Frieda to clean up the mess and promises the little white girl that she will make another pie.
This chapter can be easily divided into two halves in terms of action. The first half of the chapter chronicles Frieda’s fear that she will be “ruined” and Claudia and Frieda’s encounter with the Maginot Line. The second half of the chapter concerns Mrs. Breedlove’s cruel punishment of Pecola for accidentally knocking over a pie. This chapter focuses upon two characters who have dual identities, the Maginot Line (also known as Miss Marie) and Mrs. Breedlove (“Polly”). In this chapter, the Maginot Line and Mrs. Breedlove both must react in situations where their double lives are revealed. Their reactions are important not only in the context of their characterization but also in the context of the novel’s central themes.
Claudia and Frieda are scared of the Maginot Line when she is in fact one of the smarter and nicer women in the town. However, the only one who seems to know the sweet side of the Maginot Line is Pecola. This is implied by Pecola’s use of the name “Miss Marie.” Pecola doesn’t even know whom Claudia and Frieda are talking about when they mention “the Maginot Line.” Claudia and Frieda, meanwhile, cannot believe that Pecola is not scared of the Maginot Line and ask Pecola if she has ever eaten out of their plates. Pecola seems to understand that the town doesn’t like the women but nevertheless defends the Maginot Line with simple logic; even though Pecola’s...
(The entire section is 1,309 words.)