The Bluest Eye

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Pecola Breedlove Character Analysis

The novel's protagonist, Pecola is an eleven-year-old black girl from an abusive home. She believes she is ugly and suffers the cruelty of her parents, classmates, and other individuals in the community. She desires blue eyes, believing that they will make her beautiful—based on her unquestioning belief regarding whiteness as the sole standard of beauty—and allow her to transcend her horrible situation.

Pecola Breedlove Quotes in The Bluest Eye

The The Bluest Eye quotes below are all either spoken by Pecola Breedlove or refer to Pecola Breedlove. 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.
Prologue Section 2 Quotes

Quiet as it's kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father's baby that the marigolds did not grow. A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that didn't sprout; nobody's did…It had never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds into his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Related Symbols: Marigolds
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:

The opening paragraph of the novel reveals much about the narrative to come. The first phrase, "quiet as it's kept," signals that the story is set and narrated from within a certain community, and suggests that the coming events are not openly discussed within that community for the sake of maintaining respectability. This hints at the pervasive desire among the characters in the novel to disassociate themselves with behaviors they deem degraded and sinful, behaviors that are often linked (in the novel's American setting) to blackness. 

Throughout this passage, there is a tense juxtaposition between the childish naïveté of Claudia, the narrator, and the disturbing mention of rape, incest, and child pregnancy. Claudia at first presents her belief that Pecola's baby caused the marigolds not to grow as unfounded, a matter of childlike "innocence and faith." However, she then suggests that there is a parallel between the marigolds and the baby when she compares Pecola's body to the "unyielding" black dirt where the seeds were planted. This comparison foreshadows Morrison's exploration of the association of blackness, and particularly Pecola's blackness, with undesirability and ugliness. 

The phrases "our own little plot of black dirt" and "his own plot of black dirt" introduce the importance of the home and ownership. While on one level they evoke a pleasant suburban scene reminiscent of the Dick and Jane references threaded throughout the narrative, they also highlight the fact that ownership can have a negative side, particularly in the case of men feeling ownership of women. 

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Chapter 1 Quotes

"How do you do that? I mean how do you get someone to love you?"

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Pecola has gotten her period for the first time, and Frieda has explained to her and Claudia that Pecola can now have a baby if somebody loves her. In response, Pecola asks how you get someone to love you, but at this point Frieda is asleep so only Claudia hears, and she does not know how to answer. This is a highly emotive moment in the novel, with several layers of meaning. On the surface, this conversation is an example of the girls' innocence, revealing their childish naïveté about sex, relationships, and pregnancy. However, Morrison discloses the fact that Pecola becomes pregnant by incestuous rape in the second sentence of the novel, and thus we already know that this state of innocence will be tragically and violently cut short.

Because she doesn't seem to know exactly what sex is yet, during this conversation Frieda uses "love" as a euphemism for sex. Pecola's response reveals not only her lack of understanding about sex but also the lack of any real love in her life. Indeed, Pecola's whole existence centers around the fact that no one loves her because she is considered ugly. In desperation, she comes to believe that having blue eyes will make her beautiful and thus loveable; however, the result of this desire is that she goes insane. The further tragic irony of her question is, of course, that she does become pregnant by someone who should love her (though not in a sexual sense), but who instead violently resents her. 

Chapter 2 Quotes

The Breedloves lived there, nestled together in the storefront. Festering together in the debris of a realtor's whim. They slipped in and out of the box of peeling grey, making no stir in the neighborhood, no sound in the labor force, and no wave in the mayor's office. Each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness, each making his own patchwork quilt of reality—collecting fragments of experience here, pieces of information there.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

Having introduced the abandoned storefront where the Breedloves live, the unnamed narrator goes on to describe the family themselves. The image the narrator builds is of people who are trapped, dirty, broken, invisible, and in some ways barely human. The word "festering" in particular points to a sense of ugliness and hopelessness, and the phrase "each member of the family in his own cell of consciousness" suggests that the Breedlove's dilapidated residence is closer to a prison than a family home. By invoking animality and imprisonment, the narrator connects the Breedloves' misfortune with many negative stereotypes about African American life. Indeed, although the identity of the narrator remains unknown, the observations here seem to reflect the wider community's impression of the Breedloves and their ghost-like presence in the neighborhood. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

[The Breedloves] lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed because they believed they were ugly.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator explains that the Breedloves do not live in the storefront as a temporary measure while they transition to more appropriate housing—they seem to be there permanently. Although the Breedloves are forced to live there because they are poor and black, the reason they do not try to leave is because they "believed they were ugly." Here the narrator draws a clear contrast between social forces outside of the control of any one individual and the psychic condition produced by these forces that in turn exacerbates their effects. While it would be incorrect to say that the narrator blames the Breedloves for their situation, it is clear that in accepting society's negative view of themselves, the Breedloves have forsaken all hope for a better future. 

This passage is important because it introduces the notion that ideas about beauty and ugliness have a major impact on the way the world works. Note that the narrator does not say that the Breedloves believed they were wicked or inferior; rather, they simply believe that they are ugly. This is crucial, as throughout the novel Morrison shows that the concept of beauty––and specifically the association of whiteness with beauty and blackness with ugliness––is a highly insidious and effective way of making black people hate themselves and accept their own oppression at the hands of whites. 

You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their own conviction.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove, Samuel Breedlove
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has described the Breedloves' facial features, which do not sound particularly strange or grotesque but actually fairly ordinary ("they had high cheekbones, and their eyes turned forward"). The narrator explains that it is not the Breedloves' features themselves that are particularly ugly, but that the "source" of their ugliness is their belief that they are ugly. This emphasizes the earlier point that the Breedloves remain stuck in dire circumstances because they are convinced that this is what they deserve. Note that Morrison does not imply that believing in your own beauty is a simple or easy choice; rather, over the course of the novel she implies that it is might be easier for a black girl like Pecola to go mad (as Pecola does) than to contradict the stereotypes of a racist society and convince herself that she is beautiful. 

It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes, those eyes that held the pictures, and knew the sights—if those eyes of hers were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove
Related Symbols: Blue Eyes
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

With her parents fighting, Pecola has wished for God to make her disappear, and she imagines her body evaporating limb by limb; however, she is not able to make her eyes disappear, even in her head. The narrator then describes Pecola's wish for "different... beautiful" eyes. In the racist society in which she lives, this means blue eyes—the ultimate signifier of whiteness. Here Morrison contrasts Pecola's innocent childish daydream about having blue eyes with the dark reality of Pecola's life. At only eleven, Pecola has to deal with poverty, a violent home life, and a highly racist culture that deems her ugly for being a poor, dark-skinned black girl. She is thus robbed of any sense of a carefree, playful childhood, and internalizes the conflict around her into a deep sense of self-hatred. 

Note the fact that Pecola wishes for white-looking eyes, as opposed to other white features such as straight hair or pale skin. This choice is significant, as it reflects the idea that surface-level beauty has a meaningful impact not only on how we are perceived by others but on how we experience life ourselves. Pecola believes that "if those eyes of hers were different... she herself would be different." The novel reinforces this point by showing that white people––as well as black people who successfully associate themselves with whiteness––are not only considered more beautiful but lead more fortunate, privileged lives. Thus although Pecola's wish is distinctly childlike, we cannot dismiss it as naïve or mistaken.

He does not see her, because there is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant storekeeper with the taste of potatoes and beer in his mouth, his mind honed on the Virgin Mary, his sensibilities blunted by a permanent awareness of loss, see a little black girl?

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove
Related Symbols: Blue Eyes
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

Pecola has gone to the store owned by Mr. Yacabowski to buy candy, but when she presents her three pennies Mr. Yacabowski appears to look straight through her. The narrator describes the barriers of gender, age, and especially race that prevent Mr. Yacabowski seeing Pecola––barriers that make her invisible to him in the same way that her family occupies an invisible, ghost-like position within the neighborhood. Again, this passage highlights the importance of eyes, and maintains the close association between the themes of vision and visibility and race. Morrison shows that there is no such thing as objective vision, but rather that the biases produced by racism can make a young black girl like Pecola invisible, turning her into "nothing." 

To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove
Related Symbols: Blue Eyes
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Having bought the Mary Janes (a kind of candy) at the candy store, Pecola looks at the wrappers, which feature a smiling white girl with blond hair and blue eyes. As she eats the candy, Pecola associates this consumption with her desire to "be Mary Jane"––to have the white features that are associated with beauty. This passage shows that the link between whiteness and beauty in American culture is so pervasive that it even extends to food. Pecola cannot eat candy without being reminded that she is not white and that she is therefore not considered beautiful in the society in which she lives. 

The trance-like repetition in the phrases: "Eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane" conveys a sense of indoctrination. Pecola is constantly bombarded with the demand to aspire to white girlhood, a message that is transmitted through advertising, popular culture, and social interactions. Her own repetition of these commands gives the impression of mental instability, foreshadowing the fact that her desire for blue eyes (like those Mary Jane has) will eventually drive her insane. 

What did love feel like? she wondered. How do grownups act when they love each other? Eat fish together? Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as through he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove, Pauline Breedlove
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

Pecola is visiting the prostitutes who live above her family, and has asked them questions about being in love and having children. Pecola appears fixated with the concept of love, seemingly because she has no real experience of it and doesn't understand what it is like. She thinks of her parents having sex, during which Cholly makes sounds as if he is in pain, and Mrs. Breedlove stays silent, and Pecola wonders if love consists of "choking sounds and silence." Although a rather horrifying definition of love, tragically this actually foreshadows Pecola's first experience of sex, when her father rapes her. In a broader sense, it connects to the fact that all the women in The Bluest Eye have relationships with men that are at best dissatisfying and at worst violent and harmful. 

Chapter 8 Quotes

His soul seemed to slip down into his guts and fly into her, and the gigantic thrust he made into her then provoked the only sound she made—a hollow suck of air in the back of her throat. Like the rapid loss of air from a circus balloon.

Related Characters: Pecola Breedlove, Cholly Breedlove
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

Cholly has arrived home so drunk that he is barely able to recognize his surroundings. He approaches Pecola, who is washing dishes, and rapes her. Pecola is so shocked that she remains rigidly still and silent, only making a sound when Cholly ejaculates. This sound connects to Pecola's earlier observation that, when her parents have sex, the only thing she can hear is silence and choking noises––leading her to associate these sounds with sex and love. 

In this passage, the sound Pecola makes is compared to a rapidly deflating balloon, implying that her whole self has been instantly crushed and hollowed by the rape. This is juxtaposed with the description of Cholly's soul "fly[ing] into her," suggesting that all the misery and trauma of Cholly's life––trauma that itself originated in an act of sexual violence––has been transferred to his daughter. 

Chapter 10 Quotes

I thought of the baby that everybody wanted dead, and saw it very clearly. It was in a dark, wet place, its head covered with great O's of wool, the black face holding, like nickels, two clean black eyes…no synthetic yellow bangs suspended over marble-blue eyes, no pinched nose and bowline mouth. More strongly than my fondness for Pecola, I felt a need for someone to want the black baby to live—just to counteract the universal love of baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Pecola Breedlove, Maureen Peal
Related Symbols: Blue Eyes
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

Claudia and Frieda have heard rumors that Pecola is pregnant with her father's baby, and they are the only ones in the neighborhood who sympathize with Pecola. In contrast to the rest of the community, Claudia hopes the baby lives, and muses that if the baby was wanted, this would be a counteracting force to the glorification of whiteness that pervades American society. She imagines a vision of the baby, using positive terms to describe its blackness ("clean black eyes"), and framing white features as ugly ("synthetic yellow bangs... pinched nose"). This echoes Claudia's earlier feelings of resentment toward the white baby dolls, suggesting that this resentment is born out of a noble and necessary desire to reverse the automatic association of whiteness and beauty.

The fact that Claudia and Frieda are alone in wanting the baby to live, however, does not bode well; this suggests that the adults in their community have accepted blackness as ugly, an acceptance that makes them unable to sympathize with Pecola (despite the fact that she is clearly a victim who has done nothing wrong). In this sense, the novel is not very optimistic––after all, Pecola's baby does not survive, Pecola goes insane, and there seems to be a sense of inevitability to Claudia and Freida losing their innocence and self-love. 

Chapter 11 Quotes

The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world—which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us.

Related Characters: Claudia MacTeer (speaker), Pecola Breedlove
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final section of the novel, Pecola's baby has died and she has gone mad; she lives alone with her mother, shunned by society. Claudia describes Pecola both as existing among waste and being a form of waste herself, having absorbed the community's hatred and shame. This passage shows that oppressed groups of people––such as the African American community depicted in the novel––often use individuals like Pecola to make them feel better about themselves.

Claudia's statement that the community's beauty belonged to Pecola first and that she "gave" it to them might at first seem strange, as throughout the novel Morrison emphasizes that Pecola and her family are considered to be absolutely and essentially ugly. However, recall that in the passage about physical beauty from the chapter about Mrs. Breedlove, Morrison defines beauty as inherently competitive, a system designed to pit people against one another. With this concept in mind, it makes sense that Claudia describes the community's beauty as originating with Pecola––it is only by sacrificing Pecola, by using her as an example of ugliness, that the rest of the community can consider itself beautiful. 

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Pecola Breedlove Character Timeline in The Bluest Eye

The timeline below shows where the character Pecola Breedlove appears in The Bluest Eye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue Section 2
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...her sister (later revealed to be Frieda) believe that the flowers did not bloom because Pecola had been raped by her father, Cholly, and was pregnant with his baby. Although the... (full context)
Chapter 1
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Not long after Mr. Henry moves in, Pecola Breedlove also comes to stay with the MacTeers. The county places Pecola with the MacTeers... (full context)
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During her stay, Pecola obsessively drinks milk from a Shirley Temple cup owned by the MacTeers. Pecola and Frieda... (full context)
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One Saturday afternoon, Pecola, Frieda, and Claudia are outside on the house's stoop trying to avoid Mrs. MacTeer who... (full context)
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...MacTeer rushes out and begins lashing Frieda with a switch. After lashing Frieda, she grabs Pecola to punish her the same way, but when she does, the pad falls from between... (full context)
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That night in bed, Claudia and Frieda are full of awe and respect for Pecola. Pecola asks Frieda if her menstruation means she can have a baby now. When Frieda... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...causes her to limp, making her good leg thump against the floor as she walks. Pecola, who is awake in bed, hears pots and pans clanging together, and perceives her mother's... (full context)
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The narrator then explains that Pecola and her brother Sammy respond to the violence in different ways. Sammy curses, and often... (full context)
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As Pecola waits for the storefront apartment to erupt in violence, she whispers to herself, "Don't, Mrs.... (full context)
When the fight is over, Pecola experiences "the sick feeling" she gets in her stomach whenever her parents fight. She asks... (full context)
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Pecola walks to Yacobowski's Fresh Veg. Meat and Sundries, a store in the neighborhood that sells... (full context)
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When Pecola enters Yacobowski's, She stands at the counter looking at the candy. She decides to spend... (full context)
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Unable to speak, Pecola points at the Mary Janes. Mr. Yacobowski gets frustrated, as he can't understand what kind... (full context)
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Outside of the store, Pecola feels ashamed of herself. She notices the dandelions again and calls them ugly, perceiving them... (full context)
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Pecola visits three prostitutes—China, Poland, and Miss Marie—who live above her family. She hears Poland singing... (full context)
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Miss Marie tells Pecola about two of her boyfriends. One of the men she turned into the F.B.I. for... (full context)
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When Pecola asks Miss Marie if she has any children, she says that she does. She immediately... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...with her. As they exit the school, they notice a group of black boys surrounding Pecola. As they dance around Pecola, they taunt her for her dark skin and shout that... (full context)
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...or because the boy has a crush on Frieda. Frieda tells the boy to leave Pecola alone or she will "tell everyone what he did". Another boy then responds, telling the... (full context)
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After the altercation, Maureen takes Pecola's arm and introduces herself. When Pecola tells Maureen her name, Maureen responds that 'Pecola' is... (full context)
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Maureen offers to buy Pecola an ice cream at Isaley's. As they walk, Claudia thinks about what flavor she will... (full context)
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...Grable. Maureen asks the girls if they love Betty Grable as much as she does. Pecola agrees, but Claudia says that Hedy Lemarr is better. Maureen agrees with Claudia, and tells... (full context)
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...who is sixteen, doesn't menstruate yet. She then asks the girls if they menstruate yet. Pecola promptly replies that she does, and Maureen says she does too. Pecola asks Maureen why... (full context)
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...cute!" and takes a swing at her. When she swings, however, she misses Maureen, hitting Pecola in the face instead. Maureen runs, yelling back that she is cute. She then calls... (full context)
Chapter 5
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One day, Junior sees Pecola walking home through the playground. He has seen her before, always alone and walking with... (full context)
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Once inside, the beauty of Junior's house amazes Pecola. Junior pulls her into another room, and throws his mother's cat at Pecola's face. Junior... (full context)
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Immediately after the altercation, Geraldine arrives home and Junior accuses Pecola of killing the cat. Geraldine picks up the cat's body and pulls it toward her... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Frieda should drink whiskey to avoid getting fat and becoming "ruined", so they go to Pecola's house because they know her father will have whiskey and believe Pecola can acquire it... (full context)
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...Line asks if the girls are looking for someone, Claudia explains they are looking for Pecola. The Maginot Line tells them Pecola is at her mother's workplace, explaining that Mrs. Breedlove... (full context)
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Claudia and Frieda find Pecola sitting on the stoop in front of a beautiful white house. They tell her about... (full context)
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...finish the wash, the family's little white girl walks into the room. When she sees Pecola, Frieda and Claudia, a look of fear dances across her face. After a moment, the... (full context)
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...to come into the kitchen, Frieda notices a dish of berry cobbler on the stove. Pecola reaches out and touches the dish, accidently knocking it onto the floor. The hot cobbler... (full context)
Chapter 7
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When Pecola is born, Pauline is surprised because she doesn't look the way she had imagined her... (full context)
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...using her Christian virtue to feel superior to him, and speaks badly about him to Pecola and Samuel. She describes the way they used to make love. In the early days... (full context)
Chapter 8
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On a Saturday afternoon, Cholly staggers home drunk. He finds Pecola at the sink washing dishes. As he watches her he experiences a fury of passing... (full context)
Chapter 9
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One day Pecola knocks on Soaphead's door. She comes into his house, holding her hands over her pregnant... (full context)
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After Pecola runs away, Soaphead Church sits down at his night table and writes a letter to... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...homes all over town. As they enter different homes, they begin to overhear conversations about Pecola and begin to understand that Pecola is pregnant with her father's baby. Pecola's mother beat... (full context)
Claudia and Frieda feel ashamed and embarrassed for Pecola. Nobody in the community seems to share their sorrow. They find that people are disgusted,... (full context)
Chapter 11
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This chapter opens with a dialog between Pecola and her imaginary friend, whose voice appears in italics on the page. The imaginary friend... (full context)
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The topic of their conversation then turns to Cholly. Pecola's imaginary friend suggests that Mrs. Breedlove ignores Pecola because she misses Cholly. When Pecola responds... (full context)
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Claudia then begins to narrate the story. She describes Pecola's insanity and the way the community has disowned her. After the baby is delivered premature... (full context)
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Claudia believes that the Maginot Line and Cholly loved Pecola, but love is only as good as the person giving it. Cholly's love for Pecola... (full context)