Pecola Breedlove

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.

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Claudia MacTeer

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.

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Cholly Breedlove

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 dominates.

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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.

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Frieda MacTeer

Claudia’s 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 Claudia.

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Mrs. MacTeer

Claudia’s 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.

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Mr. MacTeer

Claudia’s father, who works hard to keep the family fed and clothed. He is fiercely protective of his daughters.

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Henry Washington

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.

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Sammy Breedlove

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.

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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.

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Mr. Yacobowski

The local grocer, a middle-aged white immigrant. He has a gruff manner toward little black girls.

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Rosemary Villanucci

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.

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Maureen Peal

A 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.

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Geraldine

A 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.

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Junior

Geraldine’s 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.

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Soaphead Church

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.

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Aunt Jimmy

The elderly woman who raises Cholly. She is affectionate but physically in decay.

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Samson Fuller

Cholly’s father, who abandoned Cholly’s mother when she got pregnant. He lives in Macon, Georgia, and is short, balding, and mean.

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Blue Jack

A co-worker and friend of Cholly’s during his boyhood. He is a kind man and excellent storyteller.

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M’Dear

A 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 stick.

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Darlene

The first girl that Cholly likes. She is pretty, playful and affectionate.

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