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THE BLUEST EYE: BOOK SUMMARY / ANALYSIS
Claudia wants to know how it felt. She feels left out to be the last one to experience everything. Frieda’s main worry is that she’s been ruined like Maginot Line. Claudia wants to cry thinking of Frieda so fat and heavy. She consoles her by telling her she could exercise and drink whiskey, their mother having told them that China and Poland were not fat because whiskey ate them up. They try to figure out where to get whiskey when it occurs to them to find Pecola since Pecola’s father drinks all the time.
When they get to Pecola’s they see Maginot Line sitting up on the balcony above. She is friendly to them and asks them up to wait for Pecola who has gone to her mother’s work. When Frieda tells her they are not allowed in her house, she throws a root beer bottle at them and it shatters at their feet. They run to escape and decide to walk the distance to where Pecola is. As they walk, the houses get better and better and the sky becomes bluer, being further from the smog of the factory.
Pecola is glad to see them. She tells them the woman they had talked to was
named Miss Marie and that she was very nice. She says Miss Marie gives
her nice gifts and tells her good stories. Mrs. Breedlove calls the girls
inside. Claudia is amazed at how good Mrs. Breedlove looks in the sparkling
clean interior of the kitchen. Mrs. Breedlove tells the girls to stand
"stock still" while she goes downstairs to get the laundry.
When she’s gone, a white girl comes in with yellow hair and pink fluffy
bedroom slippers. She is afraid when she sees three black girls and asks
where Polly is. Claudia feels anger and thinks it is worth a scratch for
this girl to call Mrs. Breedlove Polly when even Pecola calls her Mrs.
Breedlove. The girls see a berry cobbler sitting on the cabinet. Pecola
feels it to see if it’s hot and knocks the pan off the shelf where it
shatters on the floor, splattering Pecola’s legs with hot liquid. When
Mrs. Breedlove comes in she grabs Pecola and knocks her to the floor and
begins to hit her. She calls her crazy and a fool for messing up her floor
and tells the girls to get out with the laundry. The white girl begins
to cry and Mrs. Breedlove talks soothingly to her, calling her baby and
promising to make another cobbler for her. The girl keeps asking who the
other girls are and Mrs. Breedlove just hushes her.
Three major encounters with adults occur in this chapter. First, Frieda is
sexually molested by Mr. Henry. Second, Maginot Line (whom we later realize
is Pecola’s beloved Miss Maria) throws a glass bottle at Claudia and Frieda
when they reject her offer of hospitality as unsuitable or prohibited.
Third, Mrs. Breedlove is shown in her other identity, as Polly, beloved
and essentially owned by the little white girl of the house she works
for. Each encounter involves an adult treating a child as if she were
an adult or as if she were a non-entity. In each of the encounters, the
girls respond with the small amount of information they’ve been given,
information, in fact, which links the three scenes. First, they’ve been
told a woman can be ruined by sexual contact. Second, they logically deduce
that ruined women all look like those they’ve seen, either extremely obese
or made thin by alcoholism. They cannot know what else being ruined might
entail, so they work on the one sign of it they can identify--obesity.
This information leads them to Pecola’s house where they see Maginot Line
and then Mrs. Breedlove’s place of work, where they see a mother abuse
her daughter and give all her love to a white girl. A too early exposure
to sexuality ends up being the lesser of the kinds of damage that can
be done to young girls. Their rejection by mothers damages their sense
of self more deeply.
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. 09 May 2017