Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
The novel begins with a sentence from a Dick-and-Jane narrative: “Here is the house.” Homes not only indicate socioeconomic status in this novel, but they also symbolize the emotional situations and values of the characters who inhabit them. The Breedlove apartment is miserable and decrepit, suffering from Mrs. Breedlove’s preference for her employer’s home over her own and symbolizing the misery of the Breedlove family. The MacTeer house is drafty and dark, but it is carefully tended by Mrs. MacTeer and, according to Claudia, filled with love, symbolizing that family’s comparative cohesion.
To Pecola, blue eyes symbolize the beauty and happiness that she associates with the white, middle-class world. They also come to symbolize her own blindness, for she gains blue eyes only at the cost of her sanity. The “bluest” eye could also mean the saddest eye. Furthermore, eye puns on I, in the sense that the novel’s title uses the singular form of the noun (instead of The Bluest Eyes) to express many of the characters’ sad isolation.
Claudia and Frieda associate marigolds with the safety and well-being of Pecola’s baby. Their ceremonial offering of money and the remaining unsold marigold seeds represents an honest sacrifice on their part. They believe that if the marigolds they have planted grow, then Pecola’s baby will be all right. More generally, marigolds represent the constant renewal of nature. In Pecola’s case, this cycle of renewal is perverted by her father’s rape of her.