the victim of the external, made internal, maze of self-hatred that blacks
willingly allow themselves to be subjected by. She is the central character, and
the plot centers around her search for the “bluest eyes.” Pecola is the
innocent victim of the novel, being taken advantage of by every man that crosses
her path and eventually being crushed by her own self-hatred and the society she
lives in. Pecola is forced to deal with black-on-black
racism, economic class distinction, the impossible expectations of society, and
the all the normal problems that go along with just being a child.
follows the pattern of female subjugation that Morrison sets for all of her
female characters. Wanting desperately to belong, she accepts her nickname in
her white household like a dog accepts a collar. The twisted part is that she
likes it, and it makes her feel like somebody. Cholly used to be able to provide
what her white household is a pathetic substitute for: love, and a place to call
home. Cholly tyrranizes the household with his drunken behavior and then
controls “Polly” in a game of psychological warfare in which she is given
the illusion of winning, until he gets her to make love to him “as a wife
ought to.” Thus Cholly wins the upper-hand, and dominates with sex.
domieering and tyrranically controlling Cholly may be, he is weak, and those
characteristics simply expose his weakness. It is a common fact that insecurity
in a male is best played out by being the bully, especailly when the people who
are being bullied cannot fight back. As the novel progresses, Cholly becomes
weaker and weaker; until he commits what is for him an act composed of equal
parts self-disgust and power: he rapes his own ten year-old daughter. By tossing
away morality in exchange for a disturbing and twisted animalism, he illustrates
what Morrison deems the extremity to which the self-hatred and degredation of
the black race for itself can go.
significant to the novel mainly in relation to her sister Claudia, the narrator.
The two girls are deeply connected yet dramatically different; in contrast to
her confrontational and often unsympathetic sister, Frieda is quiet and kind.
Frieda’s natural passivity is accenntuated by her youth, leaving her
relatively powerless in a world of dangerous adults. For example, when Harry
attempts to molest her, her only reaction is that of retreat (into the arms of
her parents). Frieda can dominate only when others’ well-being is at stake, as
when she defends Pecola from a group of taunting boys.
Frieda’s sister, and plays her foil. She is extremely sassy, sometimes to the
point of meanness. She despises the white ideal, telling the reader first thing
how she hated the white dolls that people brought her, and then how she hates
Shirley Temple (while her sister adores her). Claudia both hates and is
fascinated by Maureen, but eventually comes to hate her. This is indicative of a
general attitude of hatred among blacks for things or people that are
“white,” or embody the ideal that Claudia dislaikes so much.
(Maginot Line/Miss Marie, China, Poland)
people’s lives are controlled largely by the societal expectations placed on
them, and the prostitutes represent an extreme example of this social
role-filling. As prostitutes, they are completely dependent on men, yet this
dependence only extends to their physical survival. Though their ability to make
money comes as a direct result of their ability to please men, they have
succssfully seperated this external fact from their inner selves. Internally,
the prostitutes are the strongest, wisest, and most independent women of the
novel. This contrasts with other female character , who have mentally succumbed
to their oppressive society without once standing on a street corner. The
prostitutes have learned to play by the rules of society without altogether
losing their power as individuals.
and sugar tongued Harry comes on the scene when he arranges to board at the
MacTeer house. Despite his jovial good humor and supposedly ardent Christianity,
Harry also has nastier characteristics, such as a penchant for prostitutes, and
a fondness for fondling young girls. Harry embodies the evil of a male dominated
society by continually debasing the women around him--and he doesn’t even
realize what he’s doing. In terms of succumbing to--and in this case
embracing--one’s societal role, Harry is more of a prostitute than Miss Marie,
China, and Poland, the “ladies of the night” whose services he so eagerly
Elihue M. Whitcomb
obviously, along with Cholly, the most demented character in the book. His
sociopathic hatred for man extends even further than the human race. This hatred
is again manifest of his own self-hatred. Elihue is not “white” enough. But
while being a pedophile, a crook, a sham, obsessive-compulsive, and various
other things, his mind is complicated enough to determine that there is
something wrong with a little black girl asking for blue eyes.
and men, blacks are faced with a complex set of social expectations that they
often spend their whole lives trying to sort through. In Maureen’s case, she
makes the blunder of being “too white.” She wears cute clothes...talks
without an accent....associates with white children, and has the money to buy
nifty things like ice cream. Thus, she places herself in the crossifre of the
whole Shirley Temple business: Because she comes so close to that white ideal,
the other black children both hat and adore her. Mauareen is just as confused as
they are however, and after a troubling argument with Claudia and Frieda, she
resorts to hurling racial epithets at her (epithets which also, ironically,
apply to her).
Pecola’s unborn child
Morrison uses the chapter of dialogue between Pecola and her unborn child not so much as a character but as a device to help the reader understand Pecola’s mind. Through Pecola’s conversation with her unborn child, Morrison provides the reader with a window so that the reader can understand Pecola’s insanity, and what caused it. Besides that, It adds the single touch that makes the reader’s agony for Pecola practically unbearable. Our hearts are wrenched from us at the same time that Morrison is telling us why they are.