WINTER: Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Maureen Peal: a new girl in school who immediately becomes very popular
Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Buddy Wilson, and Junie Bug: four boys who are teasing Pecola in the playground
Maureen Peal, a new girl in Claudia and Frieda’s school, becomes popular because she is rich and light-skinned. Claudia tries to concoct a plan to humiliate her, but to her dismay, she discovers that everyone loves Maureen and wishes to become her friend. One day Maureen starts a conversation with Claudia, who holds the locker next to hers. When Maureen decides to walk home with Frieda and Claudia, Frieda is delighted, but Claudia is still wary of her. As the girls head across the playground, they spot Pecola Breedlove, who is being teased by a group of boys. Frieda quickly rushes in and rescues her from the boys. Maureen begins to talk with Pecola, and they seem to get along really well. Maureen spots a drugstore up ahead and asks the girls if they want to have an ice cream. Claudia and Frieda decide that they like Maureen but are shocked when it becomes apparent that Maureen is going to treat only Pecola to ice cream. Ashamed because they expected to be treated to ice cream as well, Claudia and Frieda stay outside the drugstore.
The conversation turns to the facts of life, and Maureen asks Pecola if she has ever seen a naked man. Pecola replies defensively that she would never look at her naked father, but Maureen wants to know why Pecola mentioned her father. Seeing Pecola so uncomfortable, Claudia and Frieda jump at the chance to tease Maureen. Claudia swings at Maureen but hits Pecola instead. Frustrated by her inability to hit Maureen, Claudia begins to chase her and yells, “You think you so cute!” Maureen escapes, yelling back at them, “I am cute! And you ugly!… I am cute!” Claudia and Frieda quickly return the insults, but Pecola stares at the ground, apparently upset that Maureen has left. Claudia is frustrated at Pecola for refusing to fight for herself, yet she admits to herself that Maureen Peal’s words were painful because “if she [Maureen] was cute … then we were not.”
Claudia and Frieda walk home and find Mr. Henry alone in a bathrobe. Mr. Henry gives them a quarter to buy some ice cream. The girls, however, are still upset from their fight with Maureen Peal and do not want to return to the scene of the fight so quickly. They decide to buy candy at the local drugstore instead. Coming home, they see Mr. Henry laughing with China and Miss Marie, whom they call the Maginot Line. When Frieda asks him why the women were with him, he jokes with them but also asks them not to tell their parents. Frieda and Claudia are scared of the prostitutes, especially the Maginot Line, whom their mother “wouldn’t let eat out of one of her plates.” They decide not to tell their mother about them because the Maginot Line did not actually eat anything off of a plate in the house.
Maureen Peal embodies white society’s ideal of beauty and provides a contrast in character to the miserable Pecola. At the chapter’s beginning, Maureen, even though she has just entered school, has already become the most popular girl in the school. It is her unique appearance which makes her so popular. She is as rich as the “richest of the white girls,” with long brown hair and green eyes. As an outsider, Claudia and Frieda expect to have some fun at Maureen’s expense but are shocked and disappointed when their peers immediately embrace Maureen. This makes Claudia jealous, and she spends her days trying to find some flaw or imperfection that she can use as a way to tease Maureen. Claudia has to be satisfied with making fun of Maureen’s name because she cannot find anything ugly about Maureen. Although Claudia dislikes these beautiful girls, she has been brought up to believe that these girls were beautiful, and she cannot find a weakness within this beauty.
It is not so hard for the children to find ways to tease Pecola. When...
(The entire section is 1,499 words.)