Character Analysis

Pecola Breedlove

                Pecola is 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.

Polly Breedlove

                “Polly” 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.    

 Cholly Breedlove

                However 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.

 Frieda MacTeer

                Frieda is 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.

Claudia MacTeer

                Claudia is 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.

Prostitutes (Maginot Line/Miss Marie, China, Poland)

                To Morrison, 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.


                The sweet 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 employs.   

Elihue M. Whitcomb

                Whitcomb is 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.

Maureen Peel

                Like women 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 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.

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