Frieda is Claudia’s older sister and constant companion. Although Claudia often speaks of herself and Frieda as a kind of unit, Frieda is slightly more worldly, explaining to Claudia the things she understands because she’s older (albeit, not by much). However, along with having access to knowledge of things like menstruation, Frieda has begun to accept white beauty standards as facts of life in a way that Claudia hasn’t yet. Unlike Claudia, Frieda agrees with Pecola about Shirley Temple’s cuteness. When Maureen decides to walk with Frieda and Claudia, Frieda gives Claudia a look that “beg[s] restraint,” suggesting that Frieda is more willing than Claudia to be deferential to Maureen’s light skin privilege. Frieda’s nascent admiration of white beauty standards, as opposed to Claudia’s rage, suggests that valuing whiteness is something learned, not something inevitable. Frieda also serves as a point of comparison to Pecola, as both are young Black girls who are sexually assaulted by a trusted father figure. Unlike Pecola, Frieda has parents who love and care for her, despite their harsh ways of showing it, and they protect her by evicting Mr. Henry. The contrast between Frieda’s fate and Pecola’s reveals how having loving parents is crucial to a child’s growth.
However, the difference between the love in Frieda and Pecola’s families is more complicated than it appears at first glance. The MacTeer parents often give their daughters love in the sense of providing for and protecting them, but not in terms of affection or guidance. The way the MacTeer parents do not make emotional space for their daughters leaves Frieda vulnerable to being groomed by a charismatic man like Mr. Henry. Furthermore, the shame around sex and constant fear of punishment in the household means Frieda doesn’t feel comfortable turning to her parents for consolation when she erroneously worries Mr. Henry’s attack has somehow ruined her. Thus, Frieda and Claudia continue to think fondly of Mr. Henry into adulthood because of his outward kindness toward them, and Frieda feels guilty instead of protected, after his attack. In this way, Frieda also reveals the multifaceted way love works in the novel, how one can be deeply loved and not feel loved.