Study Guide

The Bluest Eye Quotes

  • Appearances

    Prologue, Part 1

    Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. (1.1.39)

    American culture promotes the idea that whiteness should be desired.

    Claudia MacTeer

    Frieda and she had a long conversation about how cu-ute Shirley Temple was. I couldn't join them in their adoration because I hated Shirley. (1.1.35)

    Claudia uses the example of Shirley Temple to differentiate herself from Frieda and Pecola, and what she perceives as their internalized racism.

    Prologue, Part 2
    Claudia MacTeer

    Occasionally an item provoked a physical reaction: an increase of acid irritation in the upper intestinal tract, a light flush of perspiration at the back of the neck....The sofa, for example. It had been purchased new, but the fabric had split straight across the back by the time it was delivered. (1.2.6)

    An ugly sofa becomes a symbol of poverty.

    Autumn, Chapter 1
    Pecola Breedlove

    It had occurred to Pecola some time ago that if her eyes...were different, that is to say, beautiful, she herself would be different." (1.3.18)

    Pecola believes that physical appearance can alter one's psychological condition.

    Thrown, in this way, into the binding conviction that only a miracle could relieve her, she would never know her beauty. She would only see what there was to see: the eyes of other people. (1.3.21)

    Pecola lacks the self-esteem to not care what other people think.

    They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly. Although their poverty was traditional and stultifying, it was not unique. But their ugliness was unique. No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly. (1.3.1)

    Regardless of whether it is true or not, the Breedloves have internalized the belief that they are ugly.

    Autumn, Chapter 2
    Claudia MacTeer

    This disrupter of seasons was a new girl in school named Maureen Peal. A high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care. The quality of her clothes threatened to derange Frieda and me. (2.4.3)

    Maureen's skin color seems tied to her class status in complex ways.

    They hold their behind in for fear of a sway too free; when they wear lipstick, they never cover the entire mouth for fear of lips too thick, and they worry, worry, worry about the edges of their hair. (2.5.4)

    This quote shows how black women are taught to behave like middle-class white women.

    Autumn, Chapter 3

    She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen. (3.7.22)

    This quote shows how popular films influence cultural and personal ideals of beauty.

    In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap. (3.7.21)

    Beauty gets associated with self-contempt here.

    Soaphead Church

    Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty. . . A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes. His outrage grew and felt like power. For the first time he honestly wished he could work miracles. (3.9.21)

    Soaphead takes pity on Pecola when he sees the extent of her self-loathing.

  • Jealousy

    Prologue, Part 1
    Claudia MacTeer

    We stare at her, wanting her bread, but more than that wanting to poke the arrogance out of her eyes and smash the pride of ownership that curls her chewing mouth. (Prologue)

    Frieda and Claudia exhibit working-class envy of their snotty neighbor.

    Autumn, Chapter 1
    Pecola Breedlove

    She eats the candy, its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. (1.3.33)

    Pecola's childlike thought patterns reveal themselves here: she believes that eating the eyes of a white girl could lead to becoming the white girl.

    Claudia MacTeer

    But the dismembering of the dolls was not the true horror. The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. To discover what eluded me: the secret of the magic they weaved on others. What made people look at them and say, "Awwwww," but not for me? The eye slide of black women as they approached them on the street, and the possessive gentleness of their touch as they handled them. (1.1.43)

    Here Claudia uncovers one of the reasons for dismembering the white dolls – she is truly envious of their allure. As we see throughout the novel, Morrison complicates a simple emotion like jealousy by linking it to something else: curiosity. Claudia's envy isn't detached or simply emotional; jealousy drives her curiosity to know why exactly one set of racial features would be privileged over another.

    Autumn, Chapter 2
    Claudia MacTeer

    When she was assigned a locker next to mine, I could indulge my jealousy four times a day. (2.4.6)

    This is a great moment, where Morrison nails just how perversely pleasurable jealousy can be. Although it drives Claudia nuts, she also really likes plotting against Maureen. Jealousy is a guilty pleasure, like emotional ice cream.

    This disrupter of seasons was a new girl in school named Maureen Peal. A high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care. The quality of her clothes threatened to derange Frieda and me. (2.4.3)

    The girls are jealous of Maureen's beauty, but also her proximity to whiteness.

    Autumn, Chapter 3
    Pauline Breedlove

    Pauline felt uncomfortable with the few black women she met. They were amused by her because she did not straighten her hair....Their goading glances and private snickers at her way of talking (saying "chil'ren") and dressing developed in her a desire for new clothes. (3.7.18)

    Pauline's jealousy is aroused by other black women judging her. Like her daughter, Pauline believes that if she alters her appearance people will treat her differently.

    She came into her own with the women who had despised her, by being more moral than they....She joined a church where shouting was frowned on....She stopped saying "chil'ren" and said "childring" instead. She let another tooth fall, and was outraged by painted ladies who thought only of clothes and men. (3.7.25)

    There is a trend in the novel of characters starting in one emotional state (say, Cholly's anger at the white men who humiliate them) and sublimating those emotions into ones that are easier to handle. Here Pauline takes her jealousy of other women and turns it into martyrdom.

    Then the screen would light up, and I'd move right on in them pictures. White men taking such good care of they women, and they all dressed up in big clean houses with bathtubs right in the same room with the toilet. Them pictures gave me a lot of pleasure, but it made coming home hard, and looking at Cholly hard. (3.7.23)

    Pauline envies the lives of white people as she sees them portrayed in the movies. In particular, she envies the monetary security, comfort, and romance she finds in them.

    Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. (3.7.22)

    Romantic love seems to feed on jealousy.

    "Oh, Claudia, you're jealous of everything." (3.6.8)

    Claudia gets upset when Mr. Henry touches Frieda instead of her, revealing a key aspect of her character. Claudia is consistently inquisitive and hungry for new experiences throughout the novel. We aren't quite sure if she wishes this had happened to her or if she wishes there were some magical way that she could know what it felt like.

  • Sex

    Prologue, Part 1

    It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair. (Prologue)

    In this novel, childhood innocence doesn't produce knowledge or hope.

    Autumn, Chapter 1

    These women hated men, all men, without shame, apology, or discrimination. They abused their visitors with a scorn grown mechanical from use. (1.3.51)

    Various characters in the novel view sex in very different ways. For the three prostitutes, sex is not associated with love or romance; rather, it's a way to express hatred of men and to earn a living.

    Pecola Breedlove

    Into her eyes came the picture of Cholly and Mrs. Breedlove in bed. He making sounds as though he were in pain, as though something had him by the throat and wouldn't let go. Terrible as his noises were, they were not nearly as bad as the no noise at all from her mother. It was as though she was not even there. Maybe that was love. Choking sounds and silence. (1.3.54)

    Even at such a young age, Pecola reveals her observant nature as she analyzes her parents' lovemaking. Key aspects of the Breedloves are revealed here: Cholly's painful sexual history and the fact that Pauline rarely, if ever, experiences sexual pleasure when with him.

    Autumn, Chapter 2

    She might wonder again...what it would be like to have that feeling while her husband is inside her. The closest thing to it was the time she was walking down the street and her napkin slipped free of her sanitary belt. It moved gently between her legs as she walked. Gently, ever so gently. And then a slight and distinctly delicious sensation collected in her crotch. As the delight grew, she had to stop in the street, hold her thighs together to contain it. (2.5.7)

    When there are sexually pleasurable moments in the novel, they rarely take place between two people. In this scene, Geraldine's pleasure is an accident that occurs while she's alone. There seems to be very little space in her world for female pleasure.

    Autumn, Chapter 3
    Cholly Breedlove

    Three women are leaning out of two windows. They see the long clean neck of a new young boy and call to him. He goes to where they are....They give him lemonade in a Mason jar. As he drinks, their eyes float up to him through the bottom of the jar....They give him back his manhood, which he takes aimlessly. (3.8.82)

    Cholly presumably encounters Miss Marie, Poland, and China here, but the text leaves this ambiguous. He has fun with them and rediscovers his masculinity.

    He hated her. He almost wished he could do it – hard, long, and painfully, he hated her so much. (3.8.52)

    Cholly was racially humiliated the first time he had sex with a woman. Rather than aim his anger at the white men who wronged him, he redirects it toward black women.

    What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? (3.8.87)

    Cholly seems to blame the rape on his inability to express his feelings toward Pecola any other way. Does Morrison's attempt to contextualize Cholly's behavior make you feel more sympathetic toward Cholly? Should we feel sympathetic toward him?

    Pecola Breedlove

    And there wasn't nastiness, and there wasn't any filth, and there wasn't any odor, and there wasn't any groaning – just the light white laughter of little girls and me. And there wasn't any look – any long funny look – any long funny Velma look afterward. No look that makes you feel dirty afterward. That makes you want to die. With little girls it is all clean and good and friendly. (3.9.41)

    Dirtiness here seems to be associated with a lack of power. Long looks make us feel accountable and recognized, and Soaphead cannot tolerate them. The fact that he longs to be looked at differently reminds us of Pecola, presenting another strange similarity between the two characters.

    Pauline Breedlove

    He would rather die than take his thing out of me. Of me. Not until he has let go of all he has, and give it to me. To me. To me. When he does, I feel a power. I be strong, I be pretty, I be young. (3.7.30)

    Pauline associates sex with power.

    Soaphead Church

    His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man. (3.9.5)

    Soaphead's rationalization of his behavior should be taken with a huge grain of salt here. In any case, the passage shows how his sexual attraction to young girls correlates directly with his attempt to purify himself, both racially and spiritually. It also seems to be a way to combat his first wife Velma's rejection. "Clean old man" is a funny twist on the phrase "dirty old man."

  • Innocence

    Prologue, Part 1

    Look, look. Here comes a friend. The friend will play with Jane. They will play a good game. Play, Jane, play. (First Prologue)

    The chipper language of the prologue stands in stark contrast to the sexual and racial horrors we confront as the novel unfolds. It raises the question of who exactly gets to experience innocence in society.

    Prologue, Part 2

    Guileless and without vanity, we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness. (2.4.40)

    Innocence means different things to different characters in the novel. For Frieda and Claudia it means not allowing someone else's harsh words to interfere with their own sense of worth. This is refreshing example of how innocence can be constructive and helpful.

    Claudia MacTeer

    It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair. (from second Prologue)

    Here Claudia looks back on her innocence as being literally unfruitful. While there is something undeniably sweet and ethical about the girls planting the seeds, Claudia reveals herself to be a particularly realistic (if not pessimistic) kind of narrator here, as she claims that her innocence and faith produced nothing good in Pecola's life.

    Autumn, Chapter 1
    Pecola Breedlove

    She eats the candy, its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. (1.3.33)

    The simple language here matches the simplicity of Pecola's desire to be innocent, beautiful, and good.

    Autumn, Chapter 2

    While he moves inside her, she will wonder why they didn't put the necessary but private parts of the body in some more convenient place – like the armpit, for example, or the palm of the hand. Someplace one could get to easily, and quickly, without undressing. (2.5.7)

    Geraldine's opinions about sex reveal the extent to which she is still very childish about these matters. The innocence about sex that many of the women in the novel display contrasts with the behavior and mannerisms of the prostitutes and the men.

    Maureen Peal

    I was glad to have a chance to show anger. Not only because of the ice cream, but because we had seen our own father naked and didn't care to be reminded of it and feel the shame brought on by the absence of shame. (2.4.31)

    This passage suggests that Maureen is trying to make Claudia feel bad about something innocent and normal – seeing her father without his clothes on. We might also think about innocence itself as being defined by an absence of shame.

    Autumn, Chapter 3

    And there wasn't nastiness, and there wasn't any filth, and there wasn't any odor, and there wasn't any groaning – just the light white laughter of little girls and me. And there wasn't any look – any long funny look – any long funny Velma look afterward. No look that makes you feel dirty afterward. That makes you want to die. With little girls it is all clean and good and friendly. (3.9.41)

    In this passage, innocence is not something experienced by young girls so much as a quality seen and desired by an adult. The fact that children do not experience innocence but instead have it taken away from them seems to be one of the major tragedies of the novel.

    Pauline and Cholly loved each other. He seemed to relish her company and even to enjoy her country ways and lack of knowledge about city things. He talked with her about her foot and asked, when they walked through the town or in the fields, if she were tired. Instead of ignoring her infirmity, pretending it was not there, he made it seem like something special and endearing. For the first time Pauline felt that her bad foot was an asset. And he did touch her, firmly but gently, just as she had dreamed. But minus the gloom of setting suns and lonely river banks. She was secure and grateful; he was kind and lively. She had not known there was so much laughter in the world. (3.7.14)

    This idyllic scene is one of the few truly innocent moments we get in the novel. It makes us wonder what the Breedloves' relationship might have been like if they had lived in a different time and place.

    Soaphead Church

    His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man. (3.9.5)

    Soaphead – the sole academic figure in the book – uses his intelligence to manipulate the concept of innocence, extending it to include his own sexuality.

    Cholly Breedlove

    What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? (3.8.87)

    Adult men in the novel tend to either worship innocence or be disgusted by it. We might think of Soaphead and Cholly as on opposite ends of this spectrum. Pecola's innocence only reminds Cholly of his inadequacy as a father, enraging him further.

  • Race

    Prologue, Part 2

    It was their contempt for their own blackness that gave the first insult its teeth. They seemed to have taken all of their smoothly cultivated ignorance, their exquisitely learned self-hatred, their elaborately designed hopelessness and sucked it all up into a fiery cone of scorn that had burned for ages in the hollows of their minds – cooled – and spilled over lips of outrage, consuming whatever was in its path. (2.4.12)

    The young boys on the playground taunt Pecola for being black as a way of angrily expressing their own self-hatred and internalized racism.

    Autumn, Chapter 1

    The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly. (1.2.1)

    The Breedloves internalize black self-hatred.

    Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the major folds of the garment. (1.1.29)

    The working-class African-American characters in the novel just barely struggle to survive.

    Claudia MacTeer

    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. (1.1.35)

    Claudia revolts against the tyranny of Shirley Temple and white beauty.

    Autumn, Chapter 2

    The line between colored and nigger was not always clear; subtle and telltale signs threatened to erode it, and the watch had to be constant. (2.5.14)

    Geraldine teaches Junior how to examine other black people in order to separate the "good" ones from the "bad" ones. This method isn't foolproof, however.

    His mother did not like him to play with niggers. She had explained to him the difference between colored people and niggers. They were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud. (2.5.14)

    Geraldine internalizes, and teaches, a racial hierarchy.

    Autumn, Chapter 3
    Cholly Breedlove

    Never did he once consider directing his hatred toward the hunters. Such an emotion would have destroyed him. They were big, white, armed men. He was small, black, helpless. His subconscious knew what his conscious mind did not guess – that hating them would have consumed him, burned him up like a piece of soft coal. (3.6.61)

    Cholly is unable to hate the white men because hating them would have destroyed him, as they are socially and legally more powerful than him. Instead, he transfers his hate to the women in his life.

    Soaphead Church

    Here was an ugly little girl asking for beauty....A little black girl who wanted to rise up out of the pit of her blackness and see the world with blue eyes. His outrage grew and felt like power. For the first time he honestly wished he could work miracles. (3.9.21)

    This passage fleshes out Soaphead's character a bit and suggests that he has a great capacity for empathy. It also reminds us of Soaphead's own racial self-hatred, so we can see why he would be inclined to try to help Pecola battle her feelings of ugliness.

    Pauline Breedlove

    Then the screen would light up, and I'd move right on in them pictures. White men taking such good care of they women, and they all dressed up in big clean houses with bathtubs right in the same room with the toilet. Them pictures gave me a lot of pleasure, but it made coming home hard, and looking at Cholly hard. (3.7.23)

    Pauline constantly compares her life as an African-American woman with the lives of the white women she sees onscreen. Movies have the ability to show us other worlds and create feelings (in this case, envy) that may not have existed otherwise.

    Winter, Chapter 4

    The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world – which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. (4.11.5)

    This passage suggests that the townsfolk of Lorain have used Pecola and her family as a kind of emotional landfill. They took all of their negative emotions about their race and social position and dumped them onto Pecola, with tragic results.

  • Society and Class

    Prologue, Part 2
    Claudia MacTeer

    It never occurred to either of us that the earth itself might have been unyielding. We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Our innocence and faith were no more productive than his lust or despair. (from second Prologue)

    This raises the question of who is to blame with regard to Pecola's fate.

    Autumn, Chapter 1

    There is a difference between being put out and being put outdoors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go. The distinction was subtle but final....Knowing that there was such a thing as outdoors bred in us a hunger for property, for ownership. (1.1.19)

    This passage illuminates a central difference between the MacTeers and the Breedloves. The MacTeers are striving, and since they have never owned property, it is a symbol of economic and racial independence for them. The Breedloves, in contrast, are constantly on the verge of losing and/or destroying their home.

    Outdoors, we knew, was the real terror of life. The threat of being outdoors surfaced frequently in those days. Every possibility of excess was curtailed with it. (1.1.28)

    Homelessness is an ever-present reality for working-class blacks in Lorain.

    The Breedloves did not live in a storefront because they were having temporary difficulty adjusting to the cutbacks at the plant. They lived there because they were poor and black, and they stayed there because they believed they were ugly. (1.2.1)

    Morrison continually stresses that the Breedloves' poverty is not just temporary. Here she highlights that it is multidimensional: not only their race but their self-hatred and psychological issues keep them down.

    Autumn, Chapter 2
    Claudia MacTeer

    This disrupter of seasons was a new girl in school named Maureen Peal. A high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care. The quality of her clothes threatened to derange Frieda and me. (2.4.3)

    Maureen's skin color and class status are both deemed oppressive to other blacks here. Her hair is described as "two lynch ropes," presenting a loaded image of racial oppression. The passage suggests that the success of Maureen's family goes hand-in-hand with the oppression of poorer, darker-skinned families.

    Winter, Chapter 4
    Claudia MacTeer

    We saw her sometimes. Frieda and I – after the baby came too soon and died. After the gossip and slow wagging of heads. She was so sad to see. Grown people looked away; children, those who were not frightened by her, laughed outright. (4.11.2)

    The town reacts to Pecola's madness by ignoring her, expressing shame and sadness.

    The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world – which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. (4.11.5)

    The constant use of the word "us" here implicates the whole town in Pecola's madness.

    She, however, stepped over into madness, a madness which protected her from us simply because it bored us in the end. (4.11.7)

    Claudia admits to being bored with Pecola's madness and feels somewhat guilty about this.

    Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. (4.11.7)

    The passage seems to suggest that the town blames Pecola for her rape because they cannot come to grips with the senselessness of it all. It is almost too scary, too difficult, to think about how random and unfortunate Pecola's fate is.

  • Women and Femininity

    Autumn, Chapter 1
    Claudia MacTeer

    Their conversation is like a gently wicked dance: sound meets sound, curtsies, shimmies, and retires. Another sound enters but is upstaged by another: the two circle each other and stop. (1.1.19)

    Claudia, eavesdropping, finds beauty in the sound of women talking.

    Miss Marie

    Marie sat shelling peanuts and popping them into her mouth. Pecola looked and looked at the women. Were they real? Marie belched, softly, purringly, lovingly. (1.3.47)

    Marie defies all societal notions of femininity.

    Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs – all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured. 'Here,' they said, 'this is beautiful, and if you are on this day "worthy" you may have it.' (1.1.38)

    Women's culture promotes identification with whiteness.

    Autumn, Chapter 2

    This disrupter of seasons was a new girl in school named Maureen Peal. A high-yellow dream child with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes that hung down her back. She was rich, at least by our standards, as rich as the richest of white girls, swaddled in comfort and care. The quality of her clothes threatened to derange Frieda and me. (2.4.3)

    Maureen's light skin is associated with beauty and femininity.

    Maureen Peal

    I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute! (2.4.35)

    Maureen insults Pecola, Frieda, and Claudia by using the same racially loaded language as the young boys.

    Autumn, Chapter 3

    She, like a Victorian parody, learned from her husband all that was worth learning – to separate herself in body, mind, and spirit from all that suggested Africa. (3.9.7)

    Black women learn to dis-identify with blackness.

    1She was never able, after her education in the movies, to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute beauty, and the scale was one she absorbed in full from the silver screen. (3.7.22)

    Hollywood films promote certain ideas of beauty.

    Cholly Breedlove

    Three women are leaning out of two windows. They see the long clean neck of a new young boy and call to him. He goes to where they are....They give him lemonade in a Mason jar. As he drinks, their eyes float up to him through the bottom of the jar....They give him back his manhood, which he takes aimlessly. (3.8.82)

    Cholly presumably encounters Miss Marie, Poland, and China here, but the text leaves this ambiguous. He has fun with them and rediscovers his masculinity.

    Pauline Breedlove

    Then the screen would light up, and I'd move right on in them pictures. White men taking such good care of they women, and they all dressed up in big clean houses with bathtubs right in the same room with the toilet. Them pictures gave me a lot of pleasure, but it made coming home hard, and looking at Cholly hard. (3.7.23)

    Pauline envies the lives of white people, as seen at the movies.

  • Love

    Autumn, Chapter 1
    Pecola Breedlove

    Dandelions. A dart of affection leaps out from her to them. But they do not look at her and do not send love back. She thinks, 'They are ugly. They are weeds.' Preoccupied with that revelation, she trips on the sidewalk crack. Anger stirs and wakes in her; it opens its mouth, and like a hot-mouthed puppy, laps up the dredges of her shame. Anger is better. There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth. (1.3.31)

    Pecola identifies with and loves the weeds because they are ugly.

    She eats the candy, its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. (1.3.33)

    In Pecola's mind, loving Mary Jane seems to be associated with becoming her. This moment reminds us of Pecola's obsession with Shirley Temple. Pecola seems to love people that represent what she wants to be.

    Claudia MacTeer

    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. (1.1.10)

    Although the MacTeer house is cold, they have their love to keep them warm. (Aww!)

    Autumn, Chapter 3
    Cholly Breedlove

    What could he do for her – ever? What give her? What say to her? What could a burned-out black man say to the hunched back of his eleven-year-old daughter? If he looked into her face, he would see those haunted, loving eyes. The hauntedness would irritate him – the love would move him to fury. How dare she love him? Hadn't she any sense at all? What was he supposed to do about that? Return it? How? (3.8.87)

    Cholly's self-hatred seems to rear its head right before he rapes Pecola. He doesn't understand how such an innocent creature could love him.

    Having no idea of how to raise children, and having never watched any parent raise himself, he could not even comprehend what such a relationship should be....Had he not been alone in the world since he was thirteen, knowing only a dying old woman who felt responsible for him, but whose age, sex, and interests were so remote from his own, he might have felt a stable connection between himself and the children. As it was, he reacted to them, and his reactions were based on what he felt at that moment. (3.8.85)

    Cholly's lack of love for his children is explained here. His experience mirrors that of other characters in the novel – like Soaphead Church – who cannot love in a moral way because they were never showed how. Childhood experiences shape the adult.

    Soaphead Church

    Once there was an old man who loved things, for the slightest contact with people produced in him a faint but persistent nausea. (3.9.1)

    Soaphead Church believes that his "nature" is to love objects and not people. This misanthropy leads him to become attracted to young girls.

    Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another – physical beauty. Probably the most destructive idea in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. (3.7.22)

    This passage presents us with some of the dangers of love.

    Pauline Breedlove

    Pauline and Cholly loved each other. He seemed to relish her company and even to enjoy her country ways and lack of knowledge about city things. He talked with her about her foot and asked, when they walked through the town or in the fields, if she were tired. Instead of ignoring her infirmity, pretending it was not there, he made it seem like something special and endearing. For the first time Pauline felt that her bad foot was an asset. And he did touch her, firmly but gently, just as she had dreamed. But minus the gloom of setting suns and lonely river banks. She was secure and grateful; he was kind and lively. She had not known there was so much laughter in the world. (3.7.14)

    Cholly is Pauline's dream come true. Having always felt detached from her family and left out of their fun, the laughter and innocence Cholly provides makes her feel safe, young, and vibrant.

    She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit. (3.7.22)

    Love is a kind of ownership for Pauline.

    Winter, Chapter 4

    Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love. The loved one is shorn, neutralized, frozen in the glare of the lover's inward eye. (4.11.8)

    Wow, this passage is intense. Here it seems that the way that people love, and the quality of their love, is tied to their personalities. What do you think is being said here? Do you agree with its assessment of love?