Miss Alice is a friend of Aunt Jimmy’s.
Old Slack Bessie is Peggy’s mother.
Cholly Breedlove grew up in a poverty-stricken, loveless environment where he was abandoned and left on a junk heap by his own mother. As a child, he never knew his father, meeting him only when he is an adolescent. His father never cared about him. Cholly was raised by a great aunt who loved him; but he did not respect her.
Cholly quit school and went to work at a grain store where he met Blue, a kindly older man who was a father figure to him. For the first time in his life, Cholly felt the love of a father. Soon after, his great aunt died just as Cholly was coming into puberty. At her funeral he met a young woman, Darlene, with whom he had his first sexual experience. However, it was abruptly ended as a pleasurable experience when two white men found them and forced them to perform as they watched and laughed at them. After the humiliating experience, Cholly hated Darlene. He turned the white culture’s hate for him onto Darlene and, later, other women. He wanted to strangle Darlene after his humiliating sexual experience.
As he grows older and marries Pauline, he becomes an alcoholic. He abuses his wife and doesn’t provide any support for his family. He is an outcast in his own family. He sees himself as a free man because he lives outside the values of both white culture and black culture. He doesn’t care at all what others think of him. He burns down his own family’s house, and, in an alcoholic confusion, rapes his own daughter, Pecola. Consumed by self-hate and the confusion of alcoholism, he recklessly endangers all of those around him. He dies in a workhouse.
Pauline Breedlove is the mother of Pecola. She is the product of a poverty-stricken environment where she learned that her existence was defined by her difference from her ten siblings. When she was two years old she stepped on a rusty nail that penetrated her foot and left her with a permanent limp. She let her physical deformity define her as damaged goods, unworthy and undeserving of love or attention. When she met Cholly as a young woman, she was surprised by his ability to see her as attractive. She married him, they moved north to Ohio and had two children, Sammy and Pecola.
Pauline doesn’t fit into the black middle-class society and refuses to accept Anglo brainwashing. She does not straighten her hair or wear makeup. However, she immerses herself in watching movies and fantasizes herself as the beautiful white protagonist. When she is fired by her white employer and treated badly by a doctor, she treats her own daughter with the same contempt that white society has treated her. When she realizes that her husband, Cholly, is a hopeless alcoholic she reinvents herself as the perfect servant of a wealthy white family. The white family refers to her as “Polly” while her own children call her Mrs. Breedlove. Pauline obeys her employer’s every command. She lavishes affection on her employer’s child but ignores her own daughter’s feelings. Her daughter, Pecola, is suffering but Pauline doesn’t know it or care about it.
Pecola Breedlove is the main character around whom the story revolves. At the beginning of the story, she is a sensitive, withdrawn eleven-year-old black girl who meets Frieda and Claudia because she is placed in their home by social services. Pecola is abused by nearly everyone in the novel. She is very passive, and even when hatred and violence erupt all around her, she does not retaliate. Instead, Pecola absorbs the hatred and racial discrimination in which she is submerged. Pecola has no friends except for Claudia and Frieda. Pecola is taunted by schoolboys, despised by white teachers, emotionally abused by her mother and raped by her father. She loses her father’s baby and ends up severely mentally disturbed. Her only weapon against the terrifying forces arrayed against her is to conceive a desire for blue eyes, because she thinks these will make her beautiful. In the end she is tricked by Soaphead Church into believing that her eyes have indeed turned blue.
Sammy Breedlove. Sammy is Pecola’s brother, the son of Cholly and Pauline. He is a few years older than she.
Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, Buddy Wilson, Junie Bug. These are a gang of black boys who harass Pecola before she is rescued by Claudia, Frieda and Maureen Peal.
Darlene is Cholly Breedlove’s first girlfriend. At his great aunt’s funeral, Cholly and Darlene suffer humiliation at the hands of white men who watch their sexual act.
Mr. and Mrs. Fisher are a wealthy white couple who hire Pauline Breedlove as their housekeeper and call her Polly.
Essie Foster. Essie is a neighbor to Cholly and Aunt Jimmy. She is famous for her peach cobbler which was blamed for causing Jimmy’s death.
Samson Fuller. Samson is Cholly Breedlove’s father, who Cholly meets in Macon. Samson is drunk, playing craps in the street when Cholly first meets him. He doesn’t want anything to do with his son, Cholly.
Geraldine is a middle-class black woman who loves her blue-eyed cat immensely, but does not show affection to her son, Junior.
Hattie is Della’s sister and grins a lot.
Mr. Henry. Mr. Henry is the boarder at Claudia and Frieda’s house. He is friendly to the girls, and they like him, but he touches Frieda’s breasts and, as a result, is beaten by Mr. MacTeer.
Blue Jack. Blue is an old man and the father figure for Cholly when he was a young man working at Tyson’s Feed and Grain Store.
Jake is Cholly’s cousin who he meets at Aunt Jimmy’s funeral.
Aunt Jimmy is Cholly Breedlove’s great aunt and caretaker. She is generous and raises Cholly.
Della Jones. Della is Henry’s landlady from the past. She had a stroke and is confused.
Aunt Julia is Della’s eccentric aunt.
Louis Junior is Geraldine’s only son who is quite lonely. He bullies other children, especially Pecola.
Claudia MacTeer. Claudia is the narrator, in part, of the novel. She tells the story through her memories of childhood when she was nine years old. Claudia’s memories begin each of the sections: autumn, winter, spring and summer.
Claudia is a strong black girl who is the opposite of Pecola. Like Pecola, she grew up in a poor black family; however she received nurturing, and her family was functional. Claudia does not accept the white value system that would have her despise herself because she is black, and she does not fit the predominant, white cultural definition of beauty. Claudia has self-esteem and is indignant about the racial discrimination she and her friends experience. She is aware of her own feelings of hatred and her capacity for violence. She openly expresses her anger at white culture by her reaction to white dolls. She rips their heads off and makes no apologies for her behavior. She is indignant that nobody asks her what she wants for Christmas, they just present her with a white doll. She also participates in beating up her neighbor, Rosemary, who is white and has many things Claudia doesn’t, including a superior attitude toward the black children. Claudia has learned valuable life lessons from her mother: she does not see herself as powerless or overwhelmed in the face of racial discrimination; and she feels deserving of all the things that she is denied by white culture. Claudia has a sense of justice and rescues Pecola. Even her need to tell Pecola’s story is a kind of rescue. Claudia will not permit Pecola’s story to remain untold.
Frieda MacTeer. Frieda is Claudia’s older sister. Frieda and Claudia share a childhood friendship with Pecola.
Mrs. MacTeer is Claudia and Frieda’s mother.
Marie, China and Poland. These women are prostitutes who live in an apartment above the Breedlove family. Marie is also known as Maginot Line because she is fat. The prostitutes drink a lot of whiskey and they hate the men who are their clients. They are friendly to Pecola and she runs errands for them.
M’Dear is a midwife.
O.V. is Aunt Jimmy’s half brother.
Peggy is having an affair with Della Jones’s husband.
Dewey Prince. Dewey is a boyfriend of Marie’s.
Maureen Peal is a light-skinned black girl who everyone seems to like at school. She has long hair, green eyes and dresses nicely. Claudia and Frieda hate her and call her “Meringue Pie.” She gets close to Pecola just to hear her story.
Chicken and Pie are Pauline Breedlove’s younger siblings.
Rosemary Villanucci. Rosemary is the next-door neighbor of Claudia and Frieda. She is white.
Elihue Micah Whitcomb (Soaphead Church). Soaphead is a spiritualist, a sort of self-proclaimed healer who was born of mixed blood. He is free from being considered black but he has no secure identity, either sexually or racially. Pecola consults him to request blue eyes.
Mr. Yacobowski is the candy store owner. He is a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant