The protagonist of the novel, an eleven-year-old
black girl who believes that she is ugly and that having blue eyes
would make her beautiful. Sensitive and delicate, she passively
suffers the abuse of her mother, father, and classmates. She is
lonely and imaginative.
in-depth analysis of Pecola Breedlove.
The narrator of parts of the novel. An independent
and strong-minded nine-year-old, Claudia is a fighter and rebels
against adults’ tyranny over children and against the black community’s idealization
of white beauty standards. She has not yet learned the self-hatred
that plagues her peers.
in-depth analysis of Claudia MacTeer.
Pecola’s father, who is impulsive and violent—free,
but in a dangerous way. Having suffered early humiliations, he takes
out his frustration on the women in his life. He is capable of both
tenderness and rage, but as the story unfolds, rage increasingly
in-depth analysis of Cholly Breedlove.
Pauline (Polly) Breedlove
Pecola’s mother, who believes that she is ugly; this
belief has made her lonely and cold. She has a deformed foot and
sees herself as the martyr of a terrible marriage. She finds meaning
not in her own family but in romantic movies and in her work caring for
a well-to-do white family.
ten-year-old sister, who shares Claudia’s independence and stubbornness.
Because she is closer to adolescence, Frieda is more vulnerable
to her community’s equation of whiteness with beauty. Frieda is
more knowledgeable about the adult world and sometimes braver than
mother, an authoritarian and sometimes callous woman who nonetheless
steadfastly loves and protects her children. She is given to fussing
aloud and to singing the blues.
father, who works hard to keep the family fed and clothed. He is
fiercely protective of
The MacTeers’ boarder, who has a reputation for
being a steady worker and a quiet
man. Middle-aged, he has never married and has a lecherous side.
Pecola’s fourteen-year-old brother, who copes with
his family’s problems by running away from home. His active response
contrasts with Pecola’s passivity.
China, Poland, Miss Marie
The local whores, Miss Marie (also known as the
Maginot Line) is fat and affectionate, China is skinny and sarcastic,
and Poland is quiet. They live above the Breedlove apartment and befriend Pecola.
local grocer, a middle-aged white immigrant. He has a gruff manner
toward little black girls.
A white, comparatively wealthy girl who lives next
door to the MacTeers. She makes fun of Claudia and Frieda and tries
to get them into trouble, and they sometimes beat her up.
light-skinned, wealthy black girl who is new at the local school.
She accepts everyone else’s assumption that she is superior and
is capable of both generosity and cruelty.
middle-class black woman who, though she keeps house flawlessly
and diligently cares for the physical appearances of herself and
her family (including her husband, Louis, and her son, Junior),
is essentially cold. She feels real affection only for her cat.
son, who, in the absence of genuine affection from his mother, becomes
cruel and sadistic. He tortures the family cat and harasses children
who come to the nearby playground.
Born Elihue Micah Whitcomb, he is a light-skinned
West Indian misanthrope and self-declared “Reader, Adviser, and
Interpreter of Dreams.” He hates all kinds of human touch, with
the exception of the bodies of young girls. He is a religious hypocrite.
elderly woman who raises Cholly. She is affectionate but physically
father, who abandoned Cholly’s mother when she got pregnant. He
lives in Macon, Georgia, and is short, balding, and mean.
co-worker and friend of Cholly’s during his boyhood. He is a kind
man and excellent storyteller.
quiet, elderly woman who serves as a doctor in the community where
Cholly grows up. She is tall and impressive, and she carries a hickory
first girl that Cholly likes. She is pretty, playful and affectionate.