Claudia is the first-person narrator of the first section in each of the four units. Claudia is nine years old, extremely bright, and comes from a loving family that owns their own house. She is warm-hearted and sensitive, but she is also angered by injustice and instinctively feels threatened by the standards of beauty that glorify Shirley Temple while ignoring black children. As a narrator, she fluctuates between an adult voice and a child's without problems.
Pecola is twelve years old. Her family lives in a converted storefront. She is considered ugly, and is emotionally and socially awkward. She prays for blue eyes, because she knows from images in movies and on candy wrappers that to have blue eyes is to be loved. She is raped by her father, Cholly, in the spring, and becomes pregnant. Her baby comes too early and dies. Terrified of her parents, she is not free (due to gender and age) to run away from home as Sammy does. Either during the pregnancy or after the miscarriage, Pecola goes mad, manufacturing an imaginary friend who becomes her only conversation partner.
Frieda is Claudia's sister, age eleven. Frieda makes important decisions at several places in the novel, and she is the clear leader of the MacTeer sisters. Like her sister, she is sensitive and concerned about Pecola, and is willing to stand up for herself and others. She is the more fearless of the two girls.
Pauline is the mother of Sammy and Pecola, and Cholly's. She has a lame foot and a missing front tooth. She is harsh and abusive to her children. She lavishes her love on the Fishers, her generous white employers, while her own family falls apart. She and Cholly battle constantly. Although once she longed to have nicer things and romantic love, she settles into surviving through her work and being a martyr by staying with Cholly. She is religious in a vindictive and vengeful way, hoping that the Lord will help her in her war against Cholly.
Cholly is a violent drunk, an unfaithful husband, and an abusive father. Cholly was humiliated by white hunters when a young boy, and the shame stuck with him. Abandoned by both of his parents, he has no concept of parenting. He rapes Pecola, skipping town when she becomes pregnant.
Mrs. MacTeer is the mother of Frieda and Claudia. She is not an indulgent mother, but she is fiercely protective and loving. Her word is law with the two girls; at several points the girls attempt to decide what to do based on literal interpretations of things Mrs. MacTeer has said.
He is Frieda and Claudia's father. Like his wife, he is a harsh but loving parent.
Sammy is an unhappy and young teenage boy, constantly in trouble, constantly running away from home for months at a time. Unlike Pecola, he has freedom, as a male, to escape the Breedloves' miserable home life.
Soaphead Church (aka Elihu Whitcomb)
Soaphead is a man of mixed white and black ancestry from the Caribbean. He is the town fortuneteller, in addition to being megalomaniacal pedophile who plays God. His "magic" is the final snap that breaks Pecola's sanity.
Bertha is an old, religious woman from whom Soaphead Church rents his room. She is the owner of Bob, the dog that Soaphead Church loathes.
Mr. Henry Washington
Mr. Henry is the middle-aged boarder taken in by the MacTeers near the beginning of the novel. Mr. Henry is charming but is somewhat lecherous. He invites prostitutes under the MacTeer's roof when the MacTeers are gone, and later he makes sexual advances at eleven-year-old Frieda.
China, Poland, and Marie (aka the Maginot Line)
These are the three prostitutes who live upstairs from Pecola. Pecola seeks refuge in their company when her family is too unbearable. All three women are long past their prime, but fat Marie is the most despised by Mrs. MacTeer and the most feared by Frieda and Claudia. Their names are heavily symbolic, as all three refer to countries where are occupied or facing invasion by fascist armies in 1939.
Geraldine is a well-off black woman with a husband, one son, and a cat. Geraldine is concerned with being respectable, and despises poor blacks. When her son, Louis, Jr., lies to her and tells her that Pecola killed Geraldine's beloved cat, her treatment of Pecola is brutal.
Louis, Jr. is a little boy, and the son of Geraldine. He tricks Pecola into coming into his house, where he throws a cat in her face, harms the cat, and then blames her for it.
Maureen is the new girl at school. She is mulatto and very well-off. Walking home with the MacTeer sisters and Pecola one day, she starts out being civil but very quickly becomes haughty. She is the darling of teachers, and Claudia sees in her all of the social forces that she fears and despises. Claudia insists that the societal forces are more to be feared and hated than Maureen herself.
Mr. Yacobowski is a store owner who sells Pecola nine pieces of Mary Jane candy. Pecola can read in his eyes the impatience and disdain that he feels for her, and she internalizes all of it.
Rosemary is a girl who lives next door. A tattletale. Claudia and Frieda dislike her immensely.
Miss Dunion is a nosy neighbor who lives next door. When she insinuates that Mr. Henry might have "ruined" Frieda, she incites the wrath of Mrs. MacTeer.
Great Aunt Jimmy
Great Aunt Jimmy is the woman who raised Cholly. She was already ancient when she took him in, right after he had been abandoned by his own mother. She dies when Cholly is a young teenage boy.
M'Dear is an old wise woman who comes to give Aunt Jimmy medical advice. She is a tall woman, and her authority is considered infallible. Sure enough, when Aunt Jimmy violates one of M'Dear's prescriptions, she dies.
Samson is possibly Cholly's father. When Cholly is a young man, he tracks Samson down. Samson humiliates him and tells him to go away.
Blue is the closest thing to a father figure in Cholly's early life. He shares a watermelon heart with Cholly and it's one of the happiest moments Cholly ever knows.
Bluest Eye Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Bluest Eye is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.