As the novel begins, we see that Pecola's family life is violent and lacking in structure, love, and support. When Cholly hits Pauline and nearly burns their house down, Mrs. Breedlove moves in with her employer, leaving her children to fend for themselves. Pecola gets sent to stay with the MacTeers while she waits for her parents to handle their problems.
Pecola begins to believe that if she only had blue eyes, her family life would be completely different and people would love her. This erroneous belief – that by changing your physical appearance you could change your familial, psychological, and social situation in life – consumes Pecola throughout the novel.
It's going to take far more than blue eyes to change this girl's life. She is teased at school, gets punched in the face, Junior attacks her with a cat, and she ruins her mom's berry cobbler. Pecola's victimization is building here.
As if things couldn't get any worse for Pecola, when she is raped by her own father, all hope that she might actually develop self-esteem or self-sufficiency flies out the window.
Pecola spends her days talking to herself in the mirror, flailing her arms like a bird and sifting through garbage. It's unclear whether or not she is crazy, and how much she actually remembers of being raped by her father. It's also unclear how many times he raped her.
At the novel's end, Claudia acknowledges that she and all of the townspeople of Lorain are partially to blame for what happened to Pecola. They do not ignore her out of fear or disgust, but because they feel responsible for what she has become. They have failed her.