The Bluest Eye

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Henry Washington Character Analysis

Known by the Macteer girls as Mr. Henry, Henry, he is a boarder at the MacTeer residence. He has a reputation as a hard working, quiet man. He was never married, but has a lascivious side. He is friendly with the MacTeer girls, but this affability covers an underlying and perverted aspect of his personality, which focuses on young girls.

Henry Washington Quotes in The Bluest Eye

The The Bluest Eye quotes below are all either spoken by Henry Washington or refer to Henry Washington. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of The Bluest Eye published in 2007.
Chapter 6 Quotes

"He…picked at me."
"Picked at you? You mean like Soaphead Church?"
"Sort of."
"He showed his privates to you?"
"Noooo. He touched me."
"Here and here." She pointed to her tiny breasts that, like two fallen acorns, scattered a few faded rose leaves on her dress.
"Really? How did it feel?"
"Oh, Claudia." She Sounded put-out. I wasn't asking the right questions.
"It didn't feel like anything."
"But wasn't it supposed to? Feel good, I mean."

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Frieda MacTeer (speaker), Henry Washington, Soaphead Church
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:

Claudia has come home to find Frieda crying in her bedroom; Frieda explains that their father has beaten up Mr. Henry because Mr. Henry groped her. Once again, the children use metaphorical language to discuss sexual acts, leaving Claudia confused about what Mr. Henry did and how it made Frieda feel. Claudia does seem to have some level of awareness about child molestation, based on the fact that she compares Mr. Henry's behavior to Soaphead Church, a known pedophile who exposes himself to young girls in the neighborhood. On the other hand, Claudia's misunderstanding is revealed by the fact that she asks Frieda if she liked it, thereby implying that Claudia is confused over the distinction between consensual sex and child abuse. 

Taken in the wider context of the novel, this confusion appears rather understandable. The sexual experiences of most of the female characters in The Bluest Eye are imbued with force and violence, and young girls are taught almost nothing about the reality of sex, relationships, and pregnancy. It is thus not surprising that Claudia does not expect sex to be consensual, and does not link pleasure to consent. Her naïveté is shown to further harm Frieda, who is hurt by her sister's misguided questioning. 


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Henry Washington Character Timeline in The Bluest Eye

The timeline below shows where the character Henry Washington appears in The Bluest Eye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
A new boarder named Mr. Henry comes to stay with the MacTeers. Before he arrives, Claudia and Frieda listen to their... (full context)
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
When Mr. Henry arrives, the girls are not introduced to him, but pointed out by their mother along... (full context)
Home and Family Theme Icon
Not long after Mr. Henry moves in, Pecola Breedlove also comes to stay with the MacTeers. The county places Pecola... (full context)
Chapter 4
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
When the girls get home, Mr. Henry comes downstairs in his bathrobe and asks if they'd like some ice cream. He gives... (full context)
Chapter 6
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...what happened, assuming Frieda got a whipping. Frieda tells Claudia that their father beat up Mr. Henry . Claudia immediately thinks that their father found out about the prostitutes they'd seen Mr.... (full context)
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Home and Family Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon
...prying for information about the incident. She asks if Frieda just sat there and let Mr. Henry touch her. She looks at her own undeveloped chest and comments that she doesn't have... (full context)
Beauty vs. Ugliness Theme Icon
Women and Femininity Theme Icon
Sex and Sexuality Theme Icon crying because she doesn't want to be "ruined" like the prostitutes they'd seen with Mr. Henry . The girls assume ruined means that Frieda will become fat, with thin legs and... (full context)