Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Sympathetic, Poetic, Philosophical
Both Claudia and the third-person narrator are deeply sympathetic. Claudia insists that Cholly loved Pecola even though he raped her, and the third-person narrator provides Cholly's back-story not to let him off the hook, but to complicate his personality and try to show us how the rape fit into the context of his life.
The book is also deeply poetic, featuring long, elegant descriptive passages about immaterial things like love:
Love, thick and dark as Alaga syrup, eased up into that cracked window. I could smell it – taste it – sweet, musty, with an edge of wintergreen in its base – everywhere in that house. It stuck, along with my tongue, to the frosted windowpanes. It coated my chest, along with the salve, and when the flannel came undone in my sleep, the clear, sharp curves of air outlined its presence in my throat. (1.1.10)
The novel is also philosophical. It features multiple aphorisms – short maxims about life – such as: "Love is never any better than the lover" (4.11.8).