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 bluest eyes.”
Pauline (Polly) Breedlove
Pauline (Polly) Breedlove, Pecola’s mother, a maid and frustrated artist who prefers keeping order in the homes of the whites for whom she works rather than attempting to do so in her own home. A complex character suffering from both physical and emotional disabilities, Pauline is still a young woman, in her early thirties, when she is introduced. She works hard and attends church regularly, but just as regularly she initiates arguments that typically degenerate into fights with her husband, Cholly. Seldom...
(The entire section is 837 words.)