My mother’s anger humiliates me; her words chafe my cheeks, and I am crying. I do not know that she is not angry at me, but at my sickness. I believe she despises my weakness for letting the sickness “take holt.”
In the beginning of the novel, Claudia becomes sick, and, based on her mother’s reaction, she believes that she has upset her mother. However, readers learn that her mother feels more annoyed at the situation than angry at Claudia. Although Claudia’s family life remains far from perfect, from the beginning readers can see that she has a loving and responsible parental figure, which stands in stark contrast to Pecola’s family situation.
I couldn’t join them in their adoration because I hated Shirley. Not because she was cute, but because she danced with Bojangles, who was my friend, my uncle, my daddy, and who ought to have been soft-shoeing it and chuckling with me. Instead he was enjoying, sharing, giving a lovely dance thing with one of those little white girls whose socks never slid down under their heels.
As Frieda and Pecola talk about their obsession with Shirley Temple, Claudia explains why she does not share her love of the child actress. Claudia feels that the black man, Bojangles, with whom she performs should be dancing with black girls instead of white girls. Even though Claudia is the youngest of the three, she seems to be more aware of racial injustice than the others.
I could not love it. But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable.
When Claudia receives a doll for Christmas, she tries to figure out what other people love so much about such dolls. She describes the doll having “glassy blue eyeballs” and “twisted . . . yellow hair.” She sees that this doll possesses the same qualities as the actresses so many women think are beautiful. However, Claudia knows that these qualities do not make a person inherently beautiful and that beauty is more subjective.
“Oh, Claudia, you’re jealous of everything. You want him to?” “No, I just get tired of having everything last.”
This exchange between Frieda and Claudia takes place after Mr. Henry touches Frieda’s breasts inappropriately. Claudia laments that she has no breasts to be touched, and while she does not want to be groped by an old man, she feels jealous that Frieda is seen as a woman and she isn’t. Although Claudia seems more aware of injustices in the world than other characters at times, instances like this show how truly innocent she remains.
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 white baby dolls, Shirley Temples, and Maureen Peals.
When rumors begin to spread that Pecola has become pregnant, everyone else laments how ugly the baby will be and that Pecola would be better off if the baby did not live. Claudia appears to be the only one who has hope for Pecola’s baby. Since she does not worship the white standard of beauty, she wants people to see that blackness can be beautiful as well and believes that Pecola can raise a beautiful black child.